The Neruda case by Roberto Ampuero

The Neruda case by Roberto Ampuero

Chilean fiction

Original title –  El caso Neruda

Translator – Carolina De Robertis

Source – review copy

My dog has died.
I buried him in the garden
next to a rusted old machine.

Some day I’ll join him right there,
but now he’s gone with his shaggy coat,
his bad manners and his cold nose,
and I, the materialist, who never believed
in any promised heaven in the sky
for any human being,
I believe in a heaven I’ll never enter.
Yes, I believe in a heaven for all dogdom
where my dog waits for my arrival
waving his fan-like tail in friendship.

I choose the first two verse of a poem by Neruda one of the few I read online that touched me a lot A dog has died source

There is nothing better than the unknown book falling through the letterbox at Winston towers such as it was with this book when it arrived .Souvenir press sent me this book I’m one that falls in love with covers and I did with this one with its great picture  of Neruda on the cover .Robert Ampuero has lived a life , in fact in some ways the way he has moved around the world he left his native Chile after the Coup in 1973 first to east Germany to study , then in Cuba back to Chile and then Sweden and finally in the US where he is the professor of creative writing at the university of Iowa .

“In that case , it’s time for you to read the Belgian ,” the poet continued forcefully .”Because if poetry transports us to heaven , crime novels plunge you into life the way it really is , they dirty your hands and blacken your face the way coal stains engine stokers on trains in the south ,where I was born ,I’ll lend you these volumes so you can learn something from Inspector Maigret .

Young Brule is given the task and told to read Maigret to help him with it by don Pablo .

Well  I for one had wanted to know more about Pablo Neruda , he has always been on my radar of some one to read , he of course one the Nobel  prize for literature but is one of the best known poets from Latin America .The book is an imagined journey around the world by a young man on behalf of Pablo Neruda . The young man Cayetano Brule is a young private in the Cuban army where he is given a task to help Don Pablo , the job is to be a detective of Don Pablo’s life to retrace the woman he loved and left through out his life .Don Pablo ask the young man if he has read any crime fiction to help him along the way , he says he has read he says some Christie , Chandler and of course Holmes .At this point Don Pablo says he needs to read Simenon detective Maigret (he is not the only one I’ve read a lot as you all know this year as well ) so Neruda sends his private Maigret to rediscover his former loves , this journey takes him Berlin ,Cuba , Mexico and Bolivia as he follows the woman who meant something in Neruda’s life .

The poets large brown eyes grew more alert , as they always did when he was talking about women .Cayetano already knew this expression with its fleeting , youthful glow “A young woman , then. How old ? ”

“She was a teenager in the early sixties so today she should be around thirty ”

Don Pablo talking about on of his women as he sends his private to find out what happened to her .

The book is about an old man wanting to find out about his life and using this younger man to in some way recapture his youth , but also do that thing which we all do from time to time and that is to recapture one’s old loves .Alongside this we see the world Neruda lived in and how his shifting views on the world , also reflected at times the moving views in the world he had lived in .The coups,  political changes ever shifting politics of Latin America in the 20th century , all this viewed through the eyes of this young man who dreams of being a great writer like Don Pablo is .Don Pablo is painted with a loving eye , you can tell that Roberto Ampuero is a huge fan of this man , he even says in his after word how when he was younger he could see Pablo Neruda house from his own house , the room he was aware of with the huge chair by the window that Pablo Neruda used to sit in .I always love the way Latin American writers twist the detective novel as a form , Ampuero has twisted it to both be a great detective novel , but also a great piece of biography and also a look at the history and politics at the time of Neruda’s life .I was also left with the wanting to buy a collection of Neruda’s poetry .

Have you read Neruda ?

The glory of life by Michael Kumpfmüller

The glory of life by Michael Kumpfmüller

German fiction

Original title – Die Herrlichkeit des Lebens

Translator – Anthea Bell

Source – Review copy

 

Come on skinny love just last the year
Pour a little salt, we were never here
My, my, my, my, my, my, my, my
Staring at the sink of blood and crushed veneer

Tell my love to wreck it all
Cut out all the ropes and let me fall
My, my, my, my, my, my, my, my
Right in this moment this order’s tall

And I told you to be patient
And I told you to be fine
And I told you to be balanced
And I told you to be kind

well skinny love by bon Iver  is about doomed love rather like Franz and Dora is . Source 

Well when I got an email from Haus books about two upcoming books from Germany in translation I jumped at the chance with the knowledge that German lit month was coming up , this book won the Jean monnet prize for European literature prize , his earlier book has won the Alfred Doblin prize one of the most prestigious prizes in literature in Germany   .Michael Kumpfmüller he studied history at university , after he finished his studies he became a freelance writer for several papers within Germany , his first book came out in 2000 a collection of short stories , he has since written three novels .He also in 2005 joined a red/green movement run by the German writer Gunter Grass .

Dora sits at the kItchen table , getting fish for supper .She has been thinking of him for days , and suddenly here he is .Tile of all people , has brought him , and he’s alone , the woman she saw on the beach isn’t with him .He stands in the doorway , looking first at the fish , then at her hands , a little censoriously she thinks .But there is no doubt about it ,this is the man from the beach

Franz meets her alone for the first time .

The glory of life is a novel partly based on true fact , the story follows the last year in the life of the Czech writer Franz Kafka .The story is told through the eyes of Dora Diamant a twenty-five year old woman , who meet the dying Kafka whilst he was recovering on the Baltic coast , she sees the boy with in this forty-year old man and he see life in this much younger woman as the romance starts .We then follow them over course of his last year as we follow the pair to Berlin ,of course the is just the time when fascism is on the rise so apart from the romance between Franz and Dora , we also see Franz having to deal with the Anti Semitism .But he is also growing weaker all the time this means he eventually ends up at a sanatorium in Austria. We see a love that burns bright but is very doomed since the start .

He has seemed to be better again for the last few days .She doesn’t really know why : is it his work on the proofs , is it the whispering at night when she tells him silly things ,what she was like as a little girl , her refusal to have her hair cut after her mothers death ? instead she wore two long braids .

Dora loves him til the end , I love the fact she isn’t sure if it the love or the writer in Franz driving him , I ‘d love to think it was the love !

This is an imagined year , yes Franz Kafka had a relationship with Dora Diamant ,but no real evidence of how this relationship went on so , Michael has done a real good job in imagining the world they lived in , I of course have read Kafka , but it was almost twenty years ago and I have since read bits about his life , I think most of us that read any amount of books in translation know the story of how we are able to read Kafka , he had ask his friend Max Brod to destroy all his work after he died , of course he didn’t thus we are able to read him ,Max is a character in this book .This book could have easily felt like historic document ,but it didn’t no what we get is a blossoming love affair that is doomed from the start ,we know this but Dora and Franz don’t .MIchael Kumpfmüller  has brought us a story of lovers that will I’m sure touch any reader that like me is a romantic at heart .As for Dora , her life after this book is really interesting  she also had some of Kafka’s work but lost it to the Gestapo , one can wonder what was lost to us the reader .

Have you read Kafka or anything about his life ?

 

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