Welcome to Spanish Lit Month

Well it’s here July  tomorrow and I’m excited to see what books every one has chosen but if your still struggling for a book to read for Spanish language lit month ,I ve a few tips here to help my co host richard has done two posts of book lists .the first has 200 books that have been picked on various lists  the second had a further list of 100 plus books from classic to the modern age from spain and latin america .

Right another great port of call is the complete review Michael the guy behind complete review has many more reviews of spanish fiction here  and Latin american fiction here .Mostly modern but it has best selection of Latin american fiction I ve seen .

The site for new Spanish books available to be translated is a great site to see what is happening in Spanish .Nick Caistor and Stefan Tobler advise on here two  people I know are trustworthy .

Then I ll give you five to read from my blog

1.Don Quixote –


This is the head water of all modern european fiction we may think use in the english speaking world got the ball rolling on the novel no its  this book has it all ,meta fiction ,playful story lines ,History and oh the mad don and his faithful friend .

2 Three trapped tiger G Cabrera Infante

The cuban Ulysses the call it but actually it is very different it has a very cuban feel you can feel a jazz beat as your read about a day in Havana just before the revolution .A lost classic this one .

3 I the supreme by Augusto Roa Bastos

Another classic of latin american fiction ,the story of a 19th century dictator in latin america echos of the present in the past image ,controlling the media and writing your own history still go on in the present day

4 Kamchatka by Marcelo Figueras

One of my favourite books of recent years ,the dirty war seen through a young boys eyes .It is touching and entertaining  and with a believable child narrator .

5 Exiled from almost everywhere by Juan Goytisolo

He is the wonderful master of spanish fiction I ve read a few but this only one since I ve blog a wonderfully wacky tale that maybe needs a wider audience  . As does Juan he may win the Nobel one day soon and if you’ve not read him you’ll kick your self .

Oh and needless to say Borges is a must read anything by him is going make your reading life a little brighter .

Amsterdam stories by Nescio

Amsterdam stories by Nescio

Dutch fiction

Translated by Damon Searls (he also select the stories in the collection)

Nescio was the pen name of J H F Gronloh ,he was a succesful Dutch businessman a director of the Holland – Bombay trading company ,he wrote in his free time and used the pseudonym  Nescio is a Latin phrase meaning I don’t know he published very little,as he want to keep his writing secret . But is so highly regarded in Holland that his collective works were named in the Nrc’s best dutch novels top ten at number 8 and was the only collection that was in top ten all the others were novels .I first heard of him maybe twenty years ago in a dutch bar when I was out visiting the Dutch city Nimwegen which was near where I lived in Germany for a time .I had completely forgotten about him til I read Trevor’s post at Mooske and Gripe  I knew it had finally hit us in English .So  I picked a copy up for Iris on books Dutch Lit month as it seemed a great choice and is my first venture into pre ww2 dutch fiction .

So the collection is made up of 9 pieces of Necio’s writings , his three best regard pieces are in the collection .The freeloader a story of a Koekebakker the narrator ,the mean of this name in dutch is silly bungler and by the title you meet the other character in the story Japi he is a man who really want to do very little in his life to say this story is only 31 pages long you get a lot for your money it is rather like stones in the landslide ,where a life is compacted into a small space but without feeling like it has .Japi would be a slacker these days ,but like many of the original Gen x’s they turn into successful businessmen .After reading The freeloader I feel this is maybe the most autobiographical of the piece in the book as thou he was looking back on a point in time he lost at some point .The other two well-known stories in the collection  are Young titans is similar to The freeloader except a larger group of men they feel like same idea of a story but worked in two different way .The other really well-known story is Little poet a piece Nescio was inspired to write by a little girl he knew ,he then gave her the story to read but he said she didn’t get it ,this was the longest story in the book and could almost be counted as a Novella .The other piece later in the book have a feel of the war coming and being there .But I did get really struck by some lines in Insula dei (island of god in latin ) .That mention in it  Nimwegen a dutch city where I spent many a great weekend out (this is the German spelling as I lived in germany near it for 18 months I always use this spelling ).

Chateau to the gardens .Its like the view from westerbouwing but everything is bigger ,and instead of Nijmegen with its little hills you have start of the alps ,far away and hazy .And the Rhone in the landscape ,and lots of trees ,lots of pointed poplars ,fields in many different shades of grey ,and little house ,grand but as the same time flowery and charming ,now and then a train in the distance .reminiscent of Montferland sometime ,of the view from the hotel there ,the Cleve towers could be mountains opposite .

Loved this poetic passage  but also mentions where I lived in germany Kleve .

So Nescio was he worth the 20 year wait yes he was ,he fell into that band of writers I love from Maugham here in the uk of human bondage Philip is rather like some of the characters in these stories  ,Hamsun hunger the starving or struggling man a character that also appears in Paul Leppins Blaugast  and Walser (also published by NYRB ).The tales of wayward manhood ,growing up ,drink and bohemian style sometimes failing sometimes going the other way and becoming a success ,He is a master of what may be called  neo realism  taking what the likes of Balzac and the French in the late 19th century did to the next level .He also  evokes an Amsterdam that is the city of the foot and wandering round it ,those dark nooks that may know be something else but then were cafes dens of chat and thoughts and dreams .Brel wrote a song about Amsterdam you feel this is the city he was describing expanded out  the rough character are a back drop in these stories but this is a city that has more to it than we know .

Have you read this book ?

June 2012


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