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 ?

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. 1streading
    Jul 21, 2014 @ 16:15:18

    Great review. An interesting connection to Figueras (Kamchatka I assume) – I’ve read that as well. Marse has not been much translated into English unfortunately – the only other one I’ve read is Shanghai Nights.

    Reply

  2. Richard
    Jul 29, 2014 @ 03:35:26

    Stu, I read Marsé’s 1973 Si te dicen que caí [translated into English as The Fallen] right before the first Spanish Lit Month a couple of years ago and loved it. One of the best books from Spain I’ve ever read. I have an earlier book by him that Bolaño raves about in Between Parentheses, but I haven’t gotten around to reading that yet. So glad to see you write about Marsé for SLM 2014!

    Reply

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