The booker longlist is out but does it matter when most of the best books are in translation !

zone

Well my mind has been elsewhere and it isn’t to today I’ve fully come round to thinking about the booker longlist and what last years changes meant .I did say at the time the Booker prize missed a trick by not only opening it too all books written in English but they should have included all books translated into English .That would opened a global prize ,but maybe also helped get books into translation more into the limelight ,For since the list has come out there has been many newspaper articles and blog posts written about the long list ,for me I agree with Naomi and a few others ,the list is very male and very white,as some people feared the Commonwealth seems to have suffered with the Americans coming into the prize .Now as Susan pointed out in her recent piece for the blog the time is right to get a prize or more notice for books in translation .This week is a prime example I escaped into books to find solace in fiction and thus read two of the best books I have read in the last few months Bilbao – New York – Bilbao by Kirmin Uribe a Spanish lit prize-winning novel by a basque writer ,thinking on a flight to New York about the novel he is writing about his families past in fishing , that is  forthcoming from Seren Books .The other book is Zone by Mathias Enard ,now this book came out in the US last year and is one of the first two books from the new UK publisher Fitzcarldo editions ,this book strangely again about a trip we follow a French intelligence officer on a rail trip from Milan to Rome ,it is one of those sprawling books that is hard to pin down ,but drags you into another world .Now I had two thoughts about these books ,firstly would they even get a publisher if written in English as they break the mould of what is viewed as a novel ,recent case have shown books that maybe play with the novel as form or are maybe seen as to sprawling struggle to get publishers the two examples that spring to mind are A naked singularity by Sregio de Le Pava ,that did a tour of publishers to only first come out a s a self published book ,then people saw its beauty and both publishers in the US and the UK brought it out ,like wise the prize-winning A girl is a half-formed thing had a lot of rejections before it was picked up by a new small imprint and as you all know went on to win and be shortlisted for a number of prizes .I feel what translation would have brought if include in the book is challenging fiction books that break the creative writing stranglehold and market forces that  lead fiction published  in English these days .So how are we going to get the public to get books in translation a new prize is an idea ,a European booker ? a way to generate interest and like the booker maybe for once get the one or two book lit readers instead of the booker winner or shortlisted book that they have seen in waterstones or an independent bookshop for their  two weeks in say Tuscany ,and pick a book in translation because they know it has been a prize book ! One can dream but we in translation circles have to try new ways and stop scratching are goatees and thinking how clever it all is and break down the walls .SO the booker missed the chance ,we should make our own chance and make people sit up and see what they are missing .

Getting old a scare and then hope winston my dog

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Well it was all going so well then life jumps up and bites you .So as you all know the blog is called after my wonderful dog winston .So Wednesday night I was out in morning and walked winston we got part way into his walk and his back legs stopped working and he fell on his side ,I panicked and just didn’t know what to do luckily after a few minutes coax he got up and we slowly managed to get home and Winston rested .Now I should gone to vets but as I life hand to mouth every month had no money and my dad who usually helps is in the states for a month I had to wait rest him luckily was off thurs so we spent quiet day but he still need to go and do his business outside so he went ok in the morning but in the evening his leg went just as we just got in the house he panicked ran round jumped on sofa trapped said leg and took over an hour to settle .So to yesterday after winston settled on thurs night he didn’t move I left him as I had to work Friday but amanda had managed to get the morning off as we live some distance from our vets and my brother was only free in evening so I got home from work scared panicky about what the vet would say ,he was so subdued since Thursday but he got up just before we Went we took a short walk his leg seemed better , even behaved in the car which he usually hates and in the vets waiting .Do the door opened and my heart worried the vet looked as best he could as my lively winston isn’t the most people friendly dog outside amanda and I he tends to get over excited or grumbly when touched too much by anyone .So vet said he thought it was probably arthritis and a course of tablets may ease symptoms and see how he goes the joy for me as I thought the worst I mean Winston is ten and half I know he is a good age but he has been very healthy before this a broken leg as a pup was caused by himself running into a hole and last year a cyst on the tail have been the only things that apart from usual dogo things he has been to vet for ,he has a tricky tum but I’ve managed that over the years .So if I take a day or two to come back my head is still in a real twist I don’t cope well with winston being ill he means so much to me and he has helped me in the lowest parts of my life in the past .He has always just been there and apart from Amanda is the second most important thing in my heart .In hindsight I feel bad I missed signs that this was creeping up on him the slow walks upstairs the occasional lie and roll In the grass which he has done always but more in recent month may have been more for the arthritis than for fun as they used to be .Anyway sorry to bore you with my life details but there you go
Ps I do have insurance on winston but I need to pay and then claim back which in hindsight as well maybe was best plan to go with

Leaf storm by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

leaf storm by Gabriel garcia Marquez

Leaf storm by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Columbian fiction

Original title – La Hojarasca

Translator – Gregory Rabassa

Source – Personnel copy

From the memory of that house ,and using his grandmother’s narrative voice as his own Linguistic Lodestone ,Marquez began building of Macondo

Salman Rushdie from his essay collection Imaginary homelands on Marquez

Well this is the first of a number of books I intend to review by Gabriel Garcia Marquez ,we lost this giant of Spanish language and Latin American writing earlier this year ,so it seemed fitting to focus for a few days in this times Spanish lit month on his books ,plus it will give me chance to add a few more to the two I have already reviewed here .In a side not I will be carrying on a bit into August with Spanish lit month so if you Haven’t had time to read something or would maybe like to cross over with Women in tranlsation month .

I’ve seen a corpse for the first time .It’s wednesday but I feel as if it was sunday because I didn’t go to school and they dressed me up in a green corduroy suit that’s tight in some places .Holding Mama’s hand ,following my grandfather ,who feels his way along with a cane with every step so he won’t bump into things .

The opening lines the grandsons view of the doctors funeral ,I really felt the kids voice here .

 

SO Leaf storm is the first book I’ve choosen by Marquez because in a way ,although not his first book it is the one that is readily available Marquez did write a book before this but it isn’t readily available .This book also saw the first appearance of the Village of Macondo which appeared in a lot of his later and more famous novels .This book also has a number of characters that Marquez uses in other books ,the first and main character in the book is an old man known in the village as Colonel ,the story centers around a promise he made to the village doctor many years before the book opens as this doctor ,who as an outsider was never really trusted within the village has died and over the years also fell out with other people .So it is left to the old Colonel to bury this man .Then there is the Colonel daughter Isabel ,who is obliged to help her father bury this man .Then there is the grandson of the Colonel he views this death with the mind of a young man ,with wide-eyed interest as he hasn’t seen death much before .So whilst honour his promise we see why the doctor end up the most hated man in the village .This leads to conflict as even thou the Colonel is a respect figure in the village ,no one wants to see the Doctor honoured with a decent funeral .

Even though he hoped it would be the opposite ,he was a strange person in town ,apathetic in spite of his obvious efforts to seem sociable and cordial .He lived among the people of Macondo ,but at a distance from them because of the memory of past against which any attempt at rectification seemed useless .

It was always hard for the doctor ,but aren’t villages always this way to incomers ?

Now this is a must for any one that has read his main novels as it is the first time we get to meet the village of Macondo .But it is also less steep in the magic realism of the later books this feels more like one of the original stories that Marquez heard of course Macondo is based on the Village his own grandmother  lived , we see the infant Marquez I feel in those first lines  and the settings is his own childhood  , the stories he heard from them as a child live on in this and his other books .The Colonel is a figure that crops up again and again in his novels the old man looking back at life and facing his own death in this case through the death of his old friend the doctor .Florentino as old man in love in the time of cholera or Jose in One hundred years of solitude .The narrative style is also clearly seen here ,I always think this is Marquez true gift ,we start the story as the doctor has died then through out the book see what happened and what happens as the two lines of the story twist and turn along we see how the past lead to the present and the tough words in the opening few pages become clear .

Have you read leaf storm ?

Outlaws by Javier Cercas

outlaws by Javier Cercas

Outlaws by Javier Cercas

Spanish fiction

Original title – Las leyes de la frontera

Translator – Anne McLean

Source – Library book

One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.

Lucius Annaeus Seneca source

Now I had thought of rereading Soldiers Salamis for this Spanish lit month then by chance I caught Javier Cercas interviewed on the radio four book show about Outlaws and before the interview had finished I had already clicked the order button on my library ordering system .I have featured Javier Cercas before his last book out in the UK was The anatomy of a moment a non fiction narrative about the attempted coup in the mid 1980’s in Spain .Javier Cercas is of course an award-winning spanish writer ,he and some fellow writers have spent years writing books focusing on the historical memory of Spain’s past between the civil war and Franco’s death .

“That was where I saw Zarco for the first time .The Vilaro arcade was on Bonastruc de porta street ,still in La Devesa neighbourhood ,across from the railway overpass .It was one of those amusement arcades for teenagers that proliferated in the seventies and eighties.

Ignacio first sees him at the arcade on the edge of their part of town .

Now this book is again about the time of Franco just after he has died the vacuum that Spain had  ,but for once he isn’t the important figure in the book, but  no this is a story of growing up  in the 1970’s in a large Spanish town  Gerona and a triangle of friends one Ignacio is from one side of town or as Cercas put it in the interview one side of the river he is a quiet timid one could say a perfect vision of a bookish boy .When one day he is playing pinball and his life is changed forever when two kids from the other side of town (the rough side ) ,start playing pinball with him these two Zanco and Tere ,take Ignacio into their circle and show him the other side of town for just one summer in 1978  .Now this is the first part of the tale the story is strong with what Cercas called his own childhood memories of where he grew up  ,although Ignacio isn’t autobiographical he said in part he was Ignacio  at that age .The second line of the story finds the three characters in the mid 90’s on different sides of the fence again Zarco has gone on to be a huge gangster who after Igancio went away has spent time in prison and has now via their other friend Tere reached out to their old friend to help Zarco who is now a folk-lore gangster .But in doing so each must reflect on their own past .Add to that Tere is a girl you can see what can happen .

“Then Tere got to the point .She told me they wanted me to defend Zarco at a trial to be held in Barcelona in a few months time ,a trail in which Zarco would be accused of assaulting two guards at Brains prison .Of course ,Tere took it for granted that I knew ,as everyone did ,who Zarco had turned into over the years

Tere find Ignacio to help their old friend

Now it’s fair to say I liked this book ,no in fact I loved this book and was so glad I caught the interview ,I know so people don’t like to know to much about a book before they read it but the interview with Cercas sold it more so to me I would have picked it up from the library at some point to read but the writer sold it to me .The book is one of those soaked in the writers own past ,but also a dreamed past of what would have happened if he had ventured more into his own childhood town dark side .But it is also a story of the bond of friendship those ties that bind and as in this case can cross class ,moral and personnel beliefs .Zarco is a character that many places have the heroic or infamous gangster a sort of superstar of the underworld . Ignacio is the boy done good and Tere is the sort of go between .In fact the spanish title laws of the border maybe tells you more about this book that is what it is a bout crossing borders in one’s life .

Have you read Cercas ?

Lizard tails by Juan Marsé

lizard tails

Lizards tail by Juan Marsé

Spanish Literature

Orginial title – Rabos de lagartija

Translator – Nick Caistor

Source – Personnel copy

 

We plan our lives according to a dream that came to us in our childhood, and we find that life alters our plans. And yet, at the end, from a rare height, we also see that our dream was our fate.

Ben Okri on childhood

Well when I brought the Jorge Volpi novel at Oxfam the other week ,this was the other book I found for Spanish lit month ,which was good fortune because Juan Marsé  has a new book the Caligraphy of dreams due out early next month from Maclehose press ,so I was able to read and put two books on the blog from one of the most well-known and successful Spanish writers ,Juan Marsé  start as a Jewellers apprentice .,but writing stories on the side in the late 1950’s his stories were being published and he decide to become a writer .Many of his books have been made unto films in Spain .He won the Cervantes prize in 2008 ( the Spanish Nobel prize )

“Come on kid , spit it out “

My parents conceived me many years ago now ,but at that moment I can have been in existence for only three or four months .Everything that happened then takes place as if in a dream frozen in the placenta of memory , a time suspended when public masquerading and private misfortune were the order of the day ,a time of abuse and unhappiness ,of prison and chains

The opening lines of Lizard tails ,this just drew me in to him

SO Lizard tales is in the post world war two period of Spain’s history Franco is still in charge of Spain .We meet David a young boy in Barcelona ,he has his own problems a drunken father who for various reasons has had to disappear  and a mother that turns men’s heads .SO we enter this young man’s worlds of Lizard tails that him and his friends ,David also dreams of an RAF pilot whose picture David has on his wall  in his bedroom , so he dreams diving spitfires and makes  a war-torn city rebuilding its self  his personnel playground .then there is also  Absent father Victor ,whom like most boys whom fathers aren’t there becomes a mythical figure to  impressionable young boys David .

Squatting on his haunches , David lets the lizard escape .then picks up the severed tail oozing sticky liquid over the drowsy rocks .He presses the penknife on his knee to shut it ,opens his other hand and puts the new til in the palm next to another one still writhing there .

Collecting his tails the title of the book .

Now I like good child narrators and David is ,his story is an Everyman story  of post civil war Spain ,how many boys lost their father because of the war ,their opinions or they just had to go ,many so as we follow David with his friends ,discovering themselves ,but also their and their parents places within this changed world . I was reminded of a couple of recent Argentinian  novels with child narrators by Andres Neuman and a few years ago by Marcelo Figueras  ,I feel Marse must have in some way been an influence on these writers ,given his position within Spanish Literature ,he was the only writer with two books on a list of the best Spanish books by El Mundo, this book was one of the two books on that list .An interesting take on growing up by a master writer ,I don’t know how I not read Marse before but its like spinning plates being a world lit blogger you try to keep them European ,Latin american ,African ,Arabic and Asian fiction but ever so often its nice to find the writers from somewhere you have missed .

Have you read Marse ?

In search of Klingsor by Jorge Volpi

in search of Klingsor

In search of Klingsor by Jorge Volpi

Mexican Fiction

Original title –  ‘En busca de Klingsor’

Translator – Kristina Cordero

Source – Personnel copy

The scientist only imposes two things, namely truth and sincerity, imposes them upon himself and upon other scientists.
Erwin Schrodinger Source

 

Now Volpi had long been on my list of writers I wanted to read this book is on most list of books to read from Spanish or the best books of the last twenty years .So when just before Spanish Lit month ,I did one of my regular visits to our local Oxfam ,I was pleased to find this and Lizard tales by Juan Marse both of which I brought .Jorge Volpi was born in Mexico ,studied law and literature ,starting a career as a Lawyer ,but still writing around this time with another of other Mexican writers he founded the Crack movement ,a style of writing moving Mexican and Latin american writing away from the Magic realism and Latin American boom .This book his best known so far is a perfect example of what they had in mind .

Let me give you a simple example .Lets take the Nazis and Britain :What is there common Objective ? The same pie Bacon :The Europe pie .Ever since Hitler took control of Germany in 1933 , all he has done is ask for pieces .First he wanted Austria ,then Czechoslovakia ,then Poland ,Belgium ,Holland ,France, Norway .Now he wants the whole pie .

Bacon talking with his professor before he went to Germany to find Klingsor

 

In search of Klingsor ,is the story of one man trying to find another man just after the second world war ,a young American Francis P Bacon is sent to the crumbling centre of Europe as the American want klingsor the codename for the top man in Hitler’s race to build an Atomic bomb .All Bacon knows is this could name and a few of the men involved ,Bacon Knows Einstein and is a pupil of him so he knows the names of the men to talk too first is a man who survived the bombing of Hitler  Links this then goes through an array of the best known scientist like Erwin Schrödinger and Niels Henrik David Bohr to find out whom was Klingsor ,but also along the way discovering how much the more or less the Germans knew than the american at the time ,many people could be Klingsor but Will Bacon ,get his Bacon so to speak .

“Klingsor “

Francis P. Bacon read the word again and Again from a mineographed page of one of the Nuremburg trail transcripts .But it refused to reveal its hidden meaning .He had to be honest  with himself :He hadn’t  the foggiest notion of what he was looking for ,nor did he have any idea how he would go about finding it ,whatever it was .

Bacon is giving the task of finding Klingsor with the scantiest of details at hand .

 

Now this book is one of those books that doesn’t easily fit into the category of say historic fiction and it’s not slight enough to be compared to say Robert Harris it isn’t a pur historic thriller no this book is full of Ideas about Atomic theory ,Maths ,Philosophy ,Physics .No for me the two names I was left with after reading this was Umberto Eco and Thomas Pynchon ,the way the book unfolds reminds you some what of Eco that slow  bit by bit unravelling of what is going on and of course Pynchon one only has to think of Gravity’s rainbow and you can see the comparison the race to grab the best of the best that both the US forces and Russian forces did is seen here as we follow Bacon down the list of people it could be .Now this was written in 1999 ,Volpi is a professor and a well-known figure and has written a number of books since ,I want to try them but from what I’ve read he is yet to match this but I’m sure he will again this is a true masterpiece a book worthy to sit along side in the name of the rose and Gravity’s rainbow .

Have you read Volpi or any other member of the Crack movement writers ?

The Ingenious Gentleman and Poet Federico Garcia Lorca ascends to hell by Carlos Rojas

Carlos Rojas the ingenious gentleman and poet Federico Garica Lorca ascends to hell

The Ingenious Gentleman and Poet Federico Garcia Lorca ascends to hell by Carlos Rojas

Spanish Fiction

Orginal title – El Ingenioso hidalgo y poeta Federico García Lorca asciende a los infiernos

Translator – Edith Grossman

Source – Personnel copy

As I have not worried to be born, I do not worry to die.
Federico Garcia Lorca source

Well when I went to London earlier this year I had in mind to buy a couple of books for Spanish lit month ,the first I brought was the Cela I review last week .I also had in mind another from the wonderful Margellos series from Yale knowing they had published a few translations from Spanish ,but when I saw this on their list and it was in stock at the LRB ,I couldn’t resist it the title alone is one that draws you in then add to the fact it is a Grossman translation you know you are on too a winner .SO Carlos Rojas is an older Spanish writer this book was first published in 1980 ,he has won the Nadal and Planteta prize in Spain  and his uncle was president of Columbia in the fifties .He has written over twenty works of fiction ,essays and Poetry .

The magic of free will in Hell incarnates those memories on stage .Still ,the flashes from the past are always painted , not live .If I  go up on the boards , so often much confused by their apparent veracity, they vanish immediately at my approach .

He can see and imagine his past but no more .

Now this book is rather like that advert on UK tv in the fact it is what it says in the Title and that is we follow the well-known Spanish Poet Lorca after he has died .As he descends through Hell ,his life is shown to him in a number of theatrical performances .The first is of his early life ,but as he grows accustom to Hell he starts to discover other people and shows ,thus expanding on his own life as he sees people like a man who arrested him  ,the judge that he once got involved with ,writers including Sadro Vasari ,whom is a made up writer that Rojas has used in two other books that follow this  ,artists of the time .The book is in four sections and you could say forms a bizarre journey through his own life , but also he sees the points at which he could have change the route of his life and at one such point he could have had two lives . Then the is the rise of Franco in the background ,which also saw the splitting of the generation of 1927 which ,Lorca was a main member off which split with the rise of Franco  , and of course Lorca was killed in 1936 by Franco’s forces .

“Did you also hold your head high when the governor asked you to arrest that man , Senor Ruiz Alonso ?”

“The acting governor “

“Lieutenant Colonel Velasco .That was his name .I don’t know why I remember it now “

“Did you hold your head high when Lieutenant  Colonel Velasco asked you to arrest the  Poet ?”

“Yes sir I did  because an inevitable justice ,divine justice seemed to settle our debts !

Lorca sees the men that arrested him .

Now this is one of those books that is hard to pin down in a review after a single reading ,I will go back another time and read it again .The book I imagine was one of the first post Franco novels coming five years after his death .You can see Lorca as maybe an example of all that was wrong with Franco .Lorca’s life is interesting as he crossed the paths with most of the major figures of Spanish culture pre civil war ,I was left with a deep feeling of want to learn more about the people mention in this book and Lorca himself  Rojas love of this poet is evident in the book .As for the trip to Hell well Thomas Aquinas talk of four parts of hell ,whether we can transpose the four parts of this book to his vision of the four parts is hard to say , in ways it does in others in doesn’t  maybe its best to say it covers a perceived view of a journey through hell .The Spanish wiki compares the book a Sonata ,I can see the comparison to music as each part of the book has a different feel  like a piece of music or Opera the first is how he got there the Spiral ,then his arrest is the second part ,then we see his destiny in the third part and finally a trial .Well unusual ,different ,stunning writing and translating .Yale have done it again another thought provoking read in the Margellos series .

Down the rabbit-hole the publishing world of istros books

the son Andrej Nikolaidis

I was so pleased that Susan from Istros books had agreed to do a piece on being a publisher in the modern world of publishing books in Translation .I agree with her on the point about scope for a new Book Prize .

A few weeks ago – more than I care to remember(!) – Stu asked me if I would like to write a guest post on his blog. As he has written so many posts in honour of Istros’ titles, I could hardly refuse, but the title made my heart sink a little – ‘The Experiences of a Small Publisher’. Well, my first thought was that ‘Trails & Tribulations’ or simply ‘Frustrations’ might have been better, but then I stopped myself: ‘Don’t be negative!’

missioon London Cover Alek Popov

So maybe I should begin at the beginning, as Lewis Carroll’s king advised, and tell you how I came to be a small publisher championing the cause of the people of the Balkan wonderlands….. Well, after living for some years in Croatia and Slovenia, and travelling extensively in Bosnia and Romania, and quite apart from all the friendships and contacts I have across the region….well, there came a point where all these strands of my eclectic life seemed to be wanting to draw together and make some kind of pattern; something of substance. As a writer and lover of literature, that thing of substance turned out to be Istros Books: a small voice in the land of publishing giants.

ekaterinfrontcover_50b7770928f02

Now into its third year, the successes of Istros for me have been the following: working with some of the region’s most accomplished and interesting authors; building relationships with some dedicated and talented translators; being supported by an informal network of enthusiasts in the form of literary bloggers; being invited to take part in festivals and fellowships programmes and therefore being introduced to many others who share the same passions.

the-coming-front-cover1

As things are, and very probably because of the way I am too, my greatest successes have been the quiet ones – the grant application approved, a regional prize awarded to one of the authors, a translation sold to another interested world publisher… The clanging sounds of PR and marketing have not been ringing around Istros, and this has to do with lack of funding as well as lack of aptitude, and seems to be a constant issue. Small publishers really have to struggle to get the word out about their books, and having no budget for such activities simply means that the effects are very limited. Add to this the huge competition to gain reviews from the handful of reviewers who are interested in translated fiction, and you end up with a constant fight on your hands.

And so this raises the inevitable question ‘What is to be done?’. I have reached the point where I don’t think I can do much more on my own: I need the help of others, in one way or the other. Could we do with the instigation of a new literary prize for European Literature in English in order to profile and publicize works which are now neglected? A prize that bubbles up from the bloggers and the publishers at the grassroots level and serves to promote good writing from a continent which we are – and will always be – intimately connected to? Should small publishers band together and work out a strategy for marketing that means we can do a whole lot more for less, simply because we share the financial burden? One way or the other, we have to fight for our place on the market, or we shall loose it.

As someone who has worked in refugee collective centres, wartime Bosnia and teenage cancer units, I have been witness to the cry of of despair. That is why I try to remain positive and focus on my mission of bringing the forgotten voices of S E Europe to the British public, and not too much on the frustrations of marketing, distribution and the garnering of reviews – all of which can easily become bywords for ‘frustration’. But just sometimes (mostly when surveying the sales figures at the end of the month), I have been known to let out the odd squeal of desperation.

Can I also add that as of today most of Istros books are now available a e books for the first time  here 

Hi there

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I know it’s the middle of Spanish lit month And I’ve been quiet well I spent weekend with amanda we had an evening at the pub in the sun then as you see above went to watch the Tour de France pass though Sheffield having watch the tour for at least the last twenty five years it was a chance I couldn’t miss but five hours in the sun took its toll on me .I had hope to write a review on Monday but got sidelined after work and was on first of three night shifts last night ,but I’m off next week so will return and storm in with a load of reviews for the second half of Spanish lit month ,sorry for not commenting on every ones lovely reviews for Spanish lit month loved reading them will come round next week and comment .thanks for taking part been great seeing everyone joining In

The family of Pascual Duarte by Camilo José Cela

The_Family_of_Pascual_Duarte

The family of Pascual Durate by Camilo José Cela

Spanish Literature

Orginal title –  La familia de Pascual Duarte

Translator – Anthony Kerrigan

Source – personnel copy

Why should what I write here be of use to other ,stop judges from judging ,spare unfortunates ,innocent or guilty ,the agony to which I have been condemned ? What’s the point ? What does it matter ? After my head has been cut off ,what is it to me if they cut off other people’s ?

Victor Hugo source my own review of his book the last days of condemned man .

I said earlier in the year I wanted to add depth to the blog ,I’ve read loads and loads of recent books in translation .But the time has come to start sprinkling one or two earlier books to the blog to add depth but also to see where modern books come from ,it’s easy to compare to English books ,but the feeling for me is wanting to find what from the original language may have influence the writer .So to Camilo Jose Cela ,the 1989 Nobel prize-winning Spanish writer ,he is a name I’ve long wanted to add the blog ,he is the main figure in the Spanish literature movement known as Tremendismo ,a cross between extreme realism and existential angst .He wrote over 50 books ,was out spoken once describing the Cervantes prize as being covered in shit (he went on to win this award ) .The Family of Pascual Duarte was his first novel .The second of my Spanish lit month choices .

My father and mother didn’t get along at all .They had been badly brought up ,were endowed with no special virtues , and could not resign themselves to their lot.Andtheir defects,all of them .I inherited to my misfortune .

His early life was one of hard times and violence .

The family of Pascual Duarte ,is the story of one man’s life Pascual Durate ,he grew up in a poverty-stricken world ,his life is one of endless losses .He has a brutal mother  that cheats on his father ,a father who dies of a rabid dog bite  .He then marries a woman who constantly cheats on him , a brother who died young after being bullied by a step father and a sister that becomes a prostitute .This world is very brutal world  one where violence is a way of life in fact in the mind of Pascual it becomes the only way out of his life .He is sitting in a cell telling us his story ,as he took the final plunge in this brutal world and killed his family .The world surrounding him is one of shifting power this book cover the period before Franco and the first year of the Civil war .The bulk of the story is a document found after his death .

The memory of my poor brother Mario used to haunt me .If I had a son who suffered like Mario ,a son who had his luck and his misfortune .I’d have drowned him to save him from any more suffering .

Pascual remembering his poor brother who had less luck than him in life .

Now the main book mention on both the back cover and Wiki page for this is of course Camus The stranger ,it is hard for me to say ,as I read that book more than twenty years ago ,but I know the world of writinng at the time this book was written 1942  .This book fits neatly alongside Camus ,Buzzati and Kafka as one man’s struggle against the world  .But for me the book I was most remind of was one I reviewed a few months ago ,the last days of a condemned man by Victor Hugo.A similar feel of a man giving his last testament a looking back on a life and what brought some to the point of killing someone .I so pleased I choose this as my first book from him to read as it was his debut and I want to try his other books now like the The hive as he has for me become one I want to complete as much as I can in what is available in English .

Have you read Cela ?

 

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