Sidewalks by Valeria Luiselli
Mexican non fiction (essays /travel)
Original title Papeles falos
Translator Christina MacSweeney (Nooteboom intro by Laura Watkinson )
Source review copy
When you see a book in the forthcoming season from a publisher you often cross your fingers and hope you are chosen to review it and that was the case (I know I could ask but not one for this if any PR folk read this and would like me to request books more I will just let me know ),Faces in the crowd by Luiselli was one of my books of last year and one I have mentioned to a number of people as a book to try .So when this dropped through my door I was pleased to be reading her wonderful writing again and also to sample her non fiction style .
Joesph Brodsky (1940-1996)
Searching for a grave is ,to some extent ,like arranging to meet a stranger in a cafe ,the lobby of a hotel or a public square ,in that both activities engender the same way of being they’re looking at a given distance ,every person could be the one waiting for us ,every grave could be the one we are searching for .Finding either involves circulating among people or tombs ;approaching and scrutinizing their retrospective features .
The opening paragraph sums up the search for his grave so well .
A mark of how good this book is ,for even thou it is a short book, it has managed to get a wonderful forward by the great Dutch writer Cees Nooteboom(worth reading especially as Laura has translated it ) .The book is a collection of ten essays mainly on travel .WE move from her home land of Mexico cycling round mexico city ,sharing a smoke with a guard late at night in her current home New York and my favourite wandering a Venice graveyard in search of the grave of Joseph Brodsky .Brodsky and Flaneurism is a sort of thread through this book .The original Mexican title False papers maybe alludes to an earlier Mexican books by the like of Alfonso Reyes .
I, who have rather fruitlessly attempted some of these thing ,now have the joy of being an offical resident of one of the most literary of cities ,though neither through the blessing of a graceful pen nor the fidelity of the muses .And ,worse still not even through the sweat of my brow and fist ,but beacuse of a terrible …..
Valeria talks about how she got where she was in the very last section and her ending up in New York .
The book is similar at times to the her début novel ,The link between past and present she used to such great effect is again in evidence especially when she wanders the grave yard and pass other poets writers and thinkers in search of that great sage of Venice Joseph Brodsky .A sort of surreal Mexican take of the Flaneur instead of a city of the living we wander a city of the dead using the graves as signposts to the writers grave she is seeking out .Strangely in a later essay ,this signpost motif is repeated as obviously wandering a city short vignettes are sparked by the sign post she passes so we see a stop sign connecting Rousseau and Walser,a pedestrian crossing the poet Salvador Novo .A new stopping point on the world-wide journey of the Flaneur and psychogeography as a writing style all the names we associate with this scene are mention Starting with Rousseau through Walter Benjamin (whose epic unfinished arcades project I am just slowly working through my self ) ,Brodsky who watermark itself an ode to Venice has brought Valeria herself to Venice to write and ode to him and the dead of that same city ,through Sebald and in the last piece a mention of herself .
Do you have a favourite book from the Flaneur oeuvre ?