Fire in the Blood by Irène Némirovsky

fire in the blood

Fire in the blood by Irène Némirovsky

French fiction

Original title – Chaleur du sang

Translator – Sandra Smith

Source – Library

I think of myself… as a troubadour, a village storyteller, the guy in the shadows of the campfire.

Louis L’Amour Silvio is our troubadour here .

Another of my books read for Women in Translation month was a return visit too Irène Némirovsky ,whom I have review before her book Le bal and pre blogging had read Suite française this book which like Suite française is set in the same village as that book ,but years before .This book was discovered and first published in France in 2007 after the two parts that had been given to two separate people during the war by Irene were put together after her biographers discovered the parts .I did a bio on Le Bal but a brief recount  Irène Némirovsky was born in Kiev ,her family fled russia in 1918 first settling in Finland ,then france she started writing in the twenties and had a number of books in  print before the war ,her book written join the war were banned ,she died in Auschwitz in 1942 ,this book was written in 1941 .

“Why do people call you Silvio ” asked Colette .

“A beautiful women who was once in love with me thought I looked like a Gondolier “, I replied .”That was over twenty years ago and ,at the time I had black hair and a handlebar moustache .She changed my name from Sylvestre to Silvio .

How Silvio became Silvio

Fire in the blood is an interesting find really as it saw  Irène Némirovsky setting a second book in the village of  Issy L’Eveque the same as in  Suite fancaise,this is a country tale of morals thou and set before the earlier book .We meet Silvio his is old and we learn of his life in this book and his family his cousins and their kids .He has returned to his home village and we see him life the veil on the village secrets ,we hear of a middle-aged couple cousins of Silvio  and what is below the surface of their marriage  ,the death of a young man whom just married and drowned ,the daughter  Colette of the middle-aged couple whom is due to marry .This is told like an old man would tell it  in a series of small tales of the village  something Némirovsky really pulls of well here  .But he scraps the surface of the village that from the outside appears a peaceful place to reveal a simmering world of loose morals and double standards .

Jean Dorin was buried the day before yesterday.It was a very long service on a cold and rainy afternoon.The mill is up for sale .Colette is keeping only the land ;her father will look after it and she will go home to live with her parents

Through out the books are little piece like this of village news .

Now those of you that have followed this blog for a good while know I have a huge soft spot for books set in small villages ,because like Miss Marple says a small village is just reflects the wide world the closer you look at it .Know fire in the blood in some ways  remind me of Christie in that way she took small villages and like putting a pan on water on the heat  leaving  it long enough it starts boiling and that is what happens here the village is simmering away  .Ok there is no crime but we have everything else people dying ,affairs and secrets .You could question would Némirovsky maybe have tied a few loose ends and overall tighten the book ,I don’t know it isn’t one of those book published posthumously that feels like it should stayed were it was no it feels nearly complete just a final run through and edit ,would raise this to be her best book in my opinion .I need to read the rest of her books ,I said this after I read Le bal and it took me four years to get to this one ,Have you read her books ?

The extraordinary journey of the Fakir who got trapped in an Ikea wardrobe by Romain Puertolas

the extraordinary journey of the fakir who got trapped in an ikea wardrobe

The extraordinary journey of the Fakir who got trapped in an Ikea wardrobe by Romain Puertolas

French fiction

Original title – L’extraordinaire voyage du fakir qui étaitrestécoincé dans unearmoireIkea

Translator Sam Taylor

Source – review copy

The island it is silent now
But the ghosts still haunt the waves
And the torch lights up a famished man
Who fortune could not save

Did you work upon the railroad
Did you rid the streets of crime
Were your dollars from the white house
Were they from the five and dime

Thousand are sailing lyrics by the Pogues ,like Aja many Irish people tried to find a better life .

Now this book must win the title for the longest and funniest title this year .Sam taylor is fast become the big French title translator here is another book that is one of those rare books that can break across the divide of being translated and a best seller at the same time .Romain Puertolas has been many things in many places a dj ,singer-songwriter ,steward and just prior to this book as a police inspector with the French border services ,checking for fake documents .he has live in France ,Spain and here in the UK .I imagine that last Job Romain did inspired this book .

Ajatashatru was famous throughout Rajasthan for swallowing retractable swords , eating broken glass made from zero-calorie sugar ,stabbing his arms with fake needles ,and a heap of other conjuring tricks,the secrets of which were only known to him and his cousins ,and which he was happy to label magical powers in order to bewitch the masses

Aja knows all the tricks but does he ?

Now the book follows Ajatashartu Oghash Rathod (Aja from here on )a street Fakir (a street magician con man in India ) ,who has seen in an old Ikea catalogue a bed of nails for sail ,he finds the is a store in Paris so sets off to Paris to buy and bring back a bed of nails for him and his friends with just his wits and a poorly counterfeit 100 euro note on a piece of string .Any way he finally arrives at the store to find out the price he had seen was just an offer from a long time ago ,but while trying to decide what to do Aja ends up in a wardrobe and then finds himself in the UK where he is held as an illegal immigrate and is deported to spain ,then he ends up in Italy ,Libya and finally back in france .Along the way he meets officials that don’t like him is mistaken for an artist ,sells a hand written shirt comes into a lot of money and finally decides on a new path in life .

They had abandoned everything to go to a country where they believed they would be able to work and earn money .That was all they asked : to find some honest work so they could send money to their familes ,to their people ,so that their children no longer had those big ,heavy bellies like basketballs

Aja in Great britain ,how many times we hear these words ,isn’t that what we all want a better life ?

 

Now this book is very funny at times Aja is a hapless chap that seems to stumble from one disaster to the next almost an Indian mr Bean ,although he is a con man he is a loveable character just trying to get a bed of nails or even a better life for himself .But there is another side to the book a more serious side and that is what is in the background as we see Aja trip around Europe and North africa and that is the journey many people take to try to find themselves a better life in Western europe although Aja story is fable like ,how many others isn’t ! I enjoyed this one I manage to read it in a night and actually laughed out loud in a few places a perfect summer read light not too taxing ,but with actually a thought-provoking story behind it .We also see how immigrants are treated around western Europe with the rise of parties like UKIP and people falling for fascist sites like Britain first maybe we need to read a book like this and think about others from outside our cosy shores ! The book is also being made into a film .

Have you read this book ?

The colour of Dawn by Yanick Lahens

the colour of dawn

The colour of Dawn by Yanick Lahens

Haitian fiction

Original title –  La Couleur de l’aube

Translator – Alison Layland

Source – review copy

You better run You better run and run and run
You better run You better run
You better run to the City of Refuge
You better run You better run
You better run to the City of Refuge

You stand before your maker
In a state of shame
because your robes are covered in mud
While your kneel at the feet
Of a woman of the street
The gutters will run with blood
They will run with blood!

I thought this Nick Cave lyric caught the journey of the girls so well .source

 

 

Well I have only read one other book from Haiti on the blog ,that is the Alphabet of the night by Jean Euphele-Milche ,but that was over four years ago and I had always intend to try another from book from Haiti ,so when this dropped through the letter box from Seren with another book from their Seren discoveries series ,i was pleased as it also ties nicely into Women in translation month as Yanick Lahens is a female writer ,born in Haiti ,she left to study in France at the Sorbonne ,she return to Haiti where she teaches at the university and worked on projects for a foundation that helps the young people of Haiti get on with their lives amid the violence that sometimes surround in their everyday lives  ,like in this book .

All night my eyes peered into the shadows .All night my ears strained to hear the crackling of gunfire in the distance – something you always want to imagine distant ,very distant .Until that day when death comes ,bleeding to our door .Untill the day it splatters our walls like the others ,I am waiting

Waiting for their brother in the opening lines a reflection on their everyday life .

The colour of dawn is a story of siblings ,a brother  Fignolé a young man who is both a musician and an out spoken voice of his generation ,his two sister Joyeuse and Angelique one with a child that has found god ,the other is just discovering her self as a women  .Are worried when their brother disappears .So the two young sister set off through the city ,through their eyes as they hunt their brother we see the city as both a place when people know one another but also a much darker violent side that is just below the surface .Fignolé sings about the rebel cause ,he has spoken to foreign journalists ,has this landed him in trouble ,the sister need to find out and only have one day to do so .

I’ve been worried about Fignolé for too long , not because he smokes joints ,not at all ,but because of what these joints could lead him to do .I worry myself sick because of his music ,because of his rebelliousness .Because of everything that gets all mixed up and makes too much sense .The music won’t tear down walls ,Fignolé.

His music worries them ,why hasn’t he come home .

The story is told by the sister ,with frequent flashbacks on their past .Although they tell the story another main character is the city itself Port-au-Prince that comes to life of the pages .Yanick works with the young people of this city you feel the three siblings make up three faces of Modern Haitian youth ,one fighting for his freedom against the poverty of the city ,another finding god through a local priest and the last just discovering sex and maybe on a path but she is now just focused on her brother .I was reminded of films like city of god ,in parts of this book as the girls move through the city and see the darker sides it remind me the ghetto’s in that film ,also the was Caicedo novel I review Liveforever ,also about a young women ,also a journey through a city like this book .The book is one of the hidden gems that a month like Women in translation is their to uncover .

Have you read a book from Haiti

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His years of pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

IMG_1894

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His years of pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

Japanese Fiction

Original title 色彩を持たない多崎つくると、彼の巡礼の年
Shikisai o motanai Tazaki Tsukuru to, Kare no Junrei no Toshi

Translator Philip Gabriel

Source – Personnel copy

“Fragments came floating into his mind like bits of wood drifting down a stream, and he fished them out and fitted them together.”

Elizabeth Gray Vining an american writer who taught the Japanese Emperor .Source

 

As I posted yesterday the first chance I got after it had come out I couldn’t resist getting the new Haruki Murakami novel ,especially as all I had read about this book made me sure it would be one of his I would really enjoy and I did .As my mum who visited last week remind me I have never been one to wait and mull over the pleasures in life ,no I always ate my pack lunches on school trips early ,ate snack at the cinema before the film had start and now I’m similar with books I really want to read so at Half one this morning I finally closed the cover of Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his years of Pilgrimage with a big smile of satisfaction on my face .Now I usually in this opening section mention about the writer as I have reviewed Murakami four times before I feel the need to skip this just mention his books now only need his surname to sell the on the cover and he is one of the few writers in translation that transcends place and nationality like Proust, Tolstoy  ,Camus and Hesse for example where people seem less nervous in trying them out as writers

Something must have happened ,something had taken place while he was away to make them create this distance .Something inapproaite ,and offensive .But what it was – what it could pssibly be – he had no clue

He returns the first summer after college and things have change

Any way on to the book the story is that of Tskuru Tazaki ,he is a 36-year-old salary man ,his job which he loves is visiting and designing stations for the railway system ,which is great for Tsukuru because for as long as he can remember he has always loved train stations .He is single live in a small kondo he inherited and on the whole is and average man just getting through his life .Anyway he meets a women called Sara ,she like him and wants to know more about him and his life anyway we hear the story of the five, so to speak ,this is the story of Tsukuru two boys Akamatsu (red pine ) and Oumi (blue sea ) and two girls Shirane (White root ) and Kurono (Black field ) and of course from the title we know that Tsukuru name isn’t connected to a colour no his means to build which given his job seems very apt .Anyway the five of them are best friends at high school until one day they all say they don’t want to talk or hear from Tsukuru again .This leads Tsukuru to his current lonely life and the move to Tokyo where he can be invisible .Sara listen and sees how this one event set of the following years of his life and his current place in the world and persuades Tsukuru to go back and find this four friends and what had happened to make them cut off all communication all those years ago ! A journey that see him go back to his home town and even to Finland .As he uncovers the past and the lives his former friends have had since the split .

“What exactly do you do in the civil engineering department ? The student asked him .

“I build stations ” Tsukuru replied .

“Station ?”

“Railroad stations .Not tv station or anything .”

“But why railroad stations ?”

“The world needs them ,that’s why “, Tsukuru said ,as it were obvious

Tsukuru had always loved station he sketch and looked at them as a student .

Now I enjoyed Murakami last book but said at the tim e that it felt too Murakami almost as thou he was throwing every trait and trick of his writing into the pot .This has a number of his usual traits but is a lot more straightforward ,the book is really a retelling of a quest novel in the modern age ,Tsukuru is on a quest for the answer to what made his friends so suddenly drop him all those years ago .The other part of the title his years of  pilgrimage refers to a piece of music by Franz Liszt  Années de pèlerinage that one of the girls used to play on the piano ,this tune also is a recurring motif through out the book as we see it crop up in different versions as Tsukuru discovers his past .Another Murakami theme is given a slightly different twist here and that is the love triangle which here becomes a love pentagon ,as there are three boys in the group and two girls and Tsukuru says he has had erotic  dreams about both girls in the past and was attracted to them both for different reasons when they were friends .A return to form for me this book sold a million in its first week in Japan and is very much a book for his target market in Japan the middle-aged Salary worker even the length means it easily can be read on the commutes to work that many salary workers have to make on trains which of course is the last theme of the book ,I’ve heard Murakami talk in the past about his love of trains and railways .I was reminded of Betjamin and his love of Victorian stations and the way that seeped into his poetry ,in this book .

Have you read this or do you intend too ?

Escape by Dominique Manotti

Escape Dominique Manotti

Escape by Dominique Manotti

French crime fiction

Orginal title – l’Evasion

Translators – Amanda Hopkinson and Ros Schwartz

Source – Review copy

 

Modernity signifies the transitory, the fugitive, the contingent, the half of art of which the other half is the eternal and the immutable.

Charles Baudelaire   source 

Now for the second book for Women in translation month ,I’m choosing a crime novel for it is one of the few areas of translated fiction you do actually find a few more female writers available and Dominque Manotti is a perfect choice ,she has won the international dagger prize in the past .She was born in Paris ,was a union and political activist in the sixties and since a professor of 19th century economic history in paris .She has published ten novels in France ,her books have also won book prizes in France .

“We part company here ”  He places a canvas bag at Filippo’s feet .I’ve put everything I could find in the cars in there for you .Clothes, two sandwiches ,and some money “.Carlo pauses ,Filippo says nothin .” My escape will be in the news ,I think .And they’ll be looking for you ,because you broke out with me .You’ll have to keep a low profile for a while ,until things settle down “

But did he take Carlo’s advice in the long-term ?

Escape is the story of two men really one living and one now dead they are Carlo the dead leader of the Italian red brigade and Filippo who had escaped with Carlo from prison in Italy ,they were cell mates .Now Filippo has heard his former cell mate who had gone back to get further involved in his red brigade activities after he had escaped has died .On the other had Filippo had travelled north sneaked through the mountain passes between France and Italy ,were he eventually ends up with the help of political refugees and activists in France in Paris where he gets a job as a security guard at night .He decides to remember all that Carlo had told him whilst doing his job at night and try to make sense of why his friend had died .The writings are quite good and with some pushing from his landlady he is advised to make it a fiction book .But what happened to Carlo and his friend want Filippo to help them find out .

L’univers des livres ,review by Jeanne Champaud

A few days ago ,the publisher of Escape ,the novel by Filippo Zuliani that will be appearing in bookshops this week ,gave me a copy of the proofs saying ,”Read these .I think you’ll be surprised ” I was .And I’m prepared to bet  that I won’t be the only one ,and that we’ll be hearing about this novel when the literary prize season is upon us this autumn .

Well it had more of an impact than that !!

Now this book takes the old escape story and adds a few twists and turns too it .Of course the politics loom large at times ,with Manotti history of activism you feel what she writes about the inner working and way the red brigade operates rings true .I was reminded at times of Schlinks novel  the weekend which of course follows friends through the aftermath of the RAF .The story of the two former cell mates is one of paths we take in life one takes the high road to Paris and the other the low road to Milan so to speak .The book also touches that field of fiction /true life crime that has grown over the years ,I was reminded of the Italian writer Massimo Carlotto who of course in his own book the Fugitive recounts his own escape from an Italian prison .The book is well translated has a fast paces I read it in two sittings and was drawn into Filippo’s world and his history with Carlo .

Have you read any book by Dominique Manotti ?

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 .

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 ?

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 .

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