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 .
27 Jul 2014 7 Comments
23 Jul 2014 8 Comments
Leaf storm by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
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 ?
22 Jul 2014 4 Comments
Outlaws by Javier Cercas
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 ?
21 Jul 2014 3 Comments
Lizards tail by Juan Marsé
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.
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 ?
18 Jul 2014 8 Comments
The Ingenious Gentleman and Poet Federico Garcia Lorca ascends to hell by Carlos Rojas
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 .
10 Jul 2014 6 Comments
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!’
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.
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.
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
03 Jul 2014 12 Comments
The family of Pascual Durate by Camilo José Cela
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 ?
01 Jul 2014 10 Comments
Liveforever by Andrés Caicedo
Orginal title – ¡Que viva la música!
Translator – Frank Wynne
Source – Review copy
“Caicedo is the missing link of the lost boom. He is the first enemy of Macondo. I do not know if he committed suicide or maybe was killed by García Márquez and the dominant culture of those times. He was less the rocker that the Colombians want and more an intellectual. a super genius tormented nerd. He had imbalances, anguish of living. He was not comfortable with the life. He had problems to stay on his foot. And he had to write in order to survive. He killed himself because he saw too much.”
Albeto Fuguet the acclaimed Chilean writer on his early death .
Now as any one who has been following the books read section of this blog will know I read this a few months ago ,but at time I was reading it was when Richard and I started discussing Spanish Lit month again .I want this to be the first book of the second Spanish lit month .I first heard of this book when Frank the translator mentioned it was meant to be coming a couple of years ago ,but with delays it didn’t arrive to this year .What first grabbed me was when I read up about Andrés Caicedo life ,this was his only book ,he killed himself after this book came out .He had said to live more than twenty-five years was madness .He lived in Cali the main setting for the book ,had a deep love of cinema which meant he had dreamed of selling his plays to Roger Corman .He ran a club showing films and discussing the films with the students and intellectuals of Cali .Anyway for more go to his Wiki page .
I’m blonde ,blondissima .So blonde that guys say ,hey angel ,you only have to flick that lustrous mane of hair over my face to free me of the shadows hounding me .it was no shadow on their faces but death .And I was scared to lose my sheen .
The opening lines of Liveforever .
Now to the book ,it’s a sort of coming of age story ,we spend time with María del Carmen Huerta ,Her story is told as she is now a high class prostitute ,her best days in that job behind her she looks at her life and this one day .The day she he miss school and just dance the way through the city of Cali ,from her own end of the city the upper class part of town ,her father is the man the photos the upper classes of the city ,the music she hears and moves to is the rolling stones western rock ,but as she moves down into the seedier darker side of the city ,junkies and drugs but also the salsa beats drive the city out open doors ,dance schools we see Maria drawn further into this world as her body pulsates with the beats of this part of town .As we see Maria drift between the groups within the city .Maria journey is one for her of discovery about herself and her world .
Who knows who maps our path through this world or how they do so ; here in beautiful Cali I am the queen of guganco I stepped out into the street ,into the sky so clear ! An enormous moon and deep wind from the mountains bore witness to my devastating revelations in that moment : that everything in life is lyrics ,is words .Maybe my words are of a different order .
I found these lines so poetic ,Guganco is a type of Cuban rumba .
Now its hard not to miss connection with other books ,frank posted a review of this book that mention catch in the rye ,yes I agree partly with that but Maria isn’t a Holden for me .Caicedo was known for his wanting to break away from the writers of the Latin american boom in his writing ,so it hard to compare with writers around him from that time like of Marquez or Lllosa as seen in the opening quote on this review .No this is far more a book about setting forth ,setting free a mind .A woman discovering herself and her body at the same time ,of course Nada springs to mind ,the Spanish catcher in the rye ,but also the style of literature she was involved with the Tremendisomo ,the world told in its brutal and true way ,having just read Cela another master of this art ,I can see part of this in Caicedo writing the brutal nature of the city of Cali comes alive and burst of the page .Add to that his love of films Corman in particular ,Corman made the film The trip about LSD ,which ike this book caught the experience of taking drugs .The other main part of this book is the music there is a three page discography of the music that is feature within the book ,from the driving rolling stones of the seventies ,through salsa ,I brought a number of the tracks from the discography into a spotify playlist which I suggest you listen too and get a real feel of the book and the pace of Caicedo writing .So welcome to spanish lit month .
21 Jun 2014 2 Comments
Blood-drenched beard by Daniel Galera
Original title – Barba ensopada de sangue
Translator – Alison Entrekin
Source – review copy
“I cannot walk through the suburbs in the solitude of the night without thinking that the night pleases us because it suppresses idle details, just as our memory does.”
Jorge Luis Borges source here
Daniel Galera was on the recent Granta list of best Brazilian writers from last year .Born on Sao Paulo but grew up in the city of Porto Alegre the same city as Luís Fernando Veríssimo, comes from .Daniel Galera works as a writer and translator and is considered one of the best Brazilian writers at using the internet for his writing ,he found his own publishing house and also has contribute to numerous online publications .He has also won the Machado De Assis prize .
What’s that face ? asks his father .
It’s an old joke .He gives his usual answer with the barest hint of a smile .
The only one I’ve got
The first hint at the main characters face blindness condition .
Well Blood drenched beard is one of those books that reminds me why I love translation so much, a crime novel that breaks the mould and is more postmodern than crime .A man who is unnamed in the book is drawn back to the seaside town that his grandfather lived in ,after his own father commits suicide.His is accompanied by his fathers old dog .Now this man is trying to discover his families past ,but has a problem a rare condition that means he can’t remember people after meet them because he can’t remember faces .So he is forced to remember actions and places to remember people .SO what we see through his eyes is the world in the pieces he remembers as he tries to discover who killed his grandfather .The grandfather died in a blackout ,hence the title of the book the lights went up the grandfather was drenched in blood . Will he find the killer ?
Back then there wasn’t a police station in Garopaba ,says the officer .If there was any kind of inquiry,the files would be in Laguna .But I doubt it .That was a long time ago .I’m from here ,born and bred ,my parents and grandparents and great-grandparents are from here and I’ve never heard of him .People remember the ones who die .
He talks to the local policeman ,but is what he says the truth or a lie ?
Blood-drenched beard is a clever take on the quest novel the man returning home on a quest .Now if you take out the main thing that most crime novels have and that is the facial identification and expressions .So what we get is the smaller details how people move there gestures and how he sees these through her eyes . Add to that the setting the small coastal town of Garopaba a small town with its own past ,myths and surreal nature ,at times I was reminded of Marquez world .I’ve read Casares the Argentinian writers take on the crime novel and was reminded at times in this book of the way he wrote .A town with secrets and a family past unravelling makes this a real page turner .Do you have a favourite crime novel that isn’t a crime novel really ?
09 Jun 2014 8 Comments
Near to the wild heart by Clarice Lispector
Original Title – Perto do coração selvagem
Translator – Alison Entrekin
Source – personnel copy
He was alone. He was unheeded, happy, and near to the wild heart of life. He was alone and young and wilful and wildhearted, alone amid a waste of wild air and brackish waters and the seaharvest of shells and tangle and veiled grey sunlight.”
― James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man via goodreads also inspired the title for this book .
Well it’s nearly here the world cup in Brazil ,so for the next couple of post I’ll be reviewing a couple of Brazilian ,this the first is a cornerstone of Brazilian literature from the most well-known writer of her generation Clarrice Lispector .I had long wanted to read Lispector but inertially when I started blogging ,there wasn’t any in my library system ,then New directions brought out this and four others in us and in Uk on import but then heard Penguin was doing a uk version ,that I am reading in the Uk penguin Editions .Clarice Lispector was born in Russia and with her family escaped the aftermath of world war one ,the family settled in Brazil .She was studying and working as a journalist on the side when she wrote this book her debut novel .It was translated once before but this is the latest translation from 2012 .
“Daddy , what shall I do ?”
“I already told you : go play and leave me be !”
“But I’ve played ,I swear “
Her father laughed
“But there’s no end to playing …”
“Yes there is >”
“Make up another game “
I thought this conversation when I was looking after my nieces just yesterday , kids hey !
So near to the wild heart is a modernist piece of fiction (I know some people cringe at that word , but for me it always seem to me something challenging or innovative ) .The book is the story of Joana ,her life is told in snippets in the stream of consciousness style ,from her as a youngster, whom is beguiled with her father telling herself poems about him ,through growing up temper tantrums ,her marriage to a man with a wandering eye , the book has an episodic feel at times as we jump in and out of Joana’s life the good ,the bad .She is called a strange creature by family members and through her thoughts and emotions as we read them comes across a a women ill at ease and very complexed .
The dense ,dark night was cut down the middle split into two black blocks of sleep .Where was she ? Between the piece s, looking at them (the one she had already slept and the one had yet to sleep ) isolated in the timeless and spaceless in an empty gap .This stretch would be subtracted from her years of life .
I felt this could have easily come from Marquez the feel of her words remind me of his descriptions and magic realism .
Now this just knocked me back ,I still can’t believe she was 23 when she wrote this book ,especially in the passages when Joana is older married .Her writing mixes, the best of European modernism but with a shot of Latin american Heat and Humidity at times ,its hard to describe yes of course its stream of consciousness but that is banded about so much but the book for me evokes ,James Joyce ,at times the early Joana parts of her life reminds me of Stephen Dedalus in a portrait of artist as a young man describing his childhood ,but later on I felt more of Virginia Woolf, Lispector does a similar thing to Woolf in books like Miss Dalloway when she captures Joana disappoint in her marriage and husband .I choose this of the two Lispector books my wife brought me the other being Hour of the star ,but now I feel maybe I want to read her books in order to she her development as a writer .A must for fans of a strong female voice ,Modernism and wanting during the world cup to discover a bit about Brazil and its culture .
Have you read Lispector ?