Portrait of a man by Georges Perec

 

 

Portrait of a Man

Portrait of a man by Georges Perec

French fiction

Original title – Le Condottière

Translator – David Belios

Source – Review Copy

 

“Pay In Blood”

Well I’m grinding my life out, steady and sure
Nothing more wretched than what I must endure
I’m drenched in the light that shines from the sun
I could stone you to death for the wrongs that you done
Sooner or later you make a mistake,
I’ll put you in a chain that you never will break
Legs and arms and body and bone
I pay in blood, but not my own.
This lyric by Bob Dylan from his Tempest album Has Gaspard paid in blood ?

Well this is an important book , as it was only recently published in France after David Belios , Perec’s English translator had rediscovered this book as a carbon copy Perec had kept , the book was mentioned in one of his other books and thought lost .it was Perec’s debut n0vel which at the time he wrote it he couldn’t find a publisher for ,and had been thought lost till it was found again .It is also an important book for this blog as it marks the 500th book I have reviewed here and the 50th novel from French to be review , as I got near to 500 books review I decide this was the one that deserved the honour of being that book .Georges Perec , was brought up by his paternal aunt and uncle after his parents died in world war two .He studied history and sociology at the Sorbonne , whilst at the same time starting to write .This is also the time he started to write this book .

Madera was heavy .I grabbed him by the armpits and went backwards down the stairs to the laboratory .His feet bounced from tread to tread in a staccato rhythm that matched my own unsteady descent , thumping and banging around the narrow stairwell .Our shadows danced on the walls Blood was still flowing all sticky , seeping from the soaking wet towel

The opening lines grip you , what has happened ?

portrait of a man takes as its inspiration the painting that is on the front cover of the book portrait of a man / the condottiere (the French title of the novel ) by Antonelo da Mesina .he use a man who is forging painting by this guy as his character in this book Gaspard Winckler is a master forger , he is working for Madera , who has asked him to copy this one picture  whilst Gaspard has stuck in the background just painting .the book opens as we see Gaspard moving the dead body of Madera , which he has just killed .We follow what happened in two parts the first is formed of an internal monologue as Gaspard is waiting for the police to find him , the events that lead up to the murder .How he became a forger and met Madera  .the second half of the book follows Gaspard after he is arrest and is being interviewed by the police .Gaspard struggled to get the painting on the canvas in the same way as Mesina had , is this why he killed Madera .

“Yes …more or less obvious .Forging isn’t a trade .It’s more like a rut .You get stuck in it .You get drowned .You think things are still possible … But you get tripped up by your own rope-trick .things don’t exist anymore … It’s difficult to explain .. How can I say .. You always do the same thing , you explore the same paths over and over ,you hit the same blocks again and again .

Gaspard explaining to the police what it is like being a forger .

Now I for one am very wary of lost books , the has been a number of them in recent years and they often seem to be the scrapings of a writers life .So I was pleased when this book wasn’t that no this is a book , that maybe at the time it was written was to new for the French readers .Perec is of course known for being an experimental writer and a member of the oulipo group , is this book like those books ,yes and no .It is a different way to tell a story in the two parts that form the book with the internal and the external descriptions of what happen  .It is actually the most accessible book by Perec I have read .The big theme of the book is maybe being False , what are we ,how are we if we just copy , what is the truth behind the murder ? As with some of his later books he has twisted the crime thriller genre to make an interesting study on the human condition . A fitting choice for the 500th review by this blogger a rediscovered book that actually deserved to be published ironically his first book becomes his last book as well , a very Perec thing in a way (maybe that is what he had in mind keeping the carbon copy ?)

have you a favourite rediscovered book ?

uncertain Glory by joan sales

 

 

Uncertain Glory by Joan Sales

Catalan fiction

original title – Incerta glòria

Translator – Peter Bush

Source – review copy

‘The Cemetery Is Near’

(VI: From ‘Cancionero Y Romancero De Ausencias’)

 

The cemetery is near

where you and I are sleeping,

between blue prickly-pears,

blue agaves and children,

who scream excitedly

if the dead darken the road.

From here to the cemetery, all

is blue, golden, clear.

Four paces, and the dead.

Four paces, and the living.

Clear, blue and golden,

my son there grows remote.

The cemetery is near a poem by Miguel Hernandez ,which Pablo Neruda called the face of spain .Source 

Well this is the first of two book from catalan I’ll be reviewing  you in the next few weeks , this first is considered a classic in Catalan and also one of the definitive works on the Spanish civil war .Joan Sales was born in Barcelona and studied law just before the outbreak of the Civil war , he fought in the civil war and afterwards he lived in Exile .He first published the book in 1956 ,but revised it over the years until the definitive version of the book came out in 1971 , as the earlier version had been subject to Franco censorship of them .

8 july

We are still doing , nothing , just waiting for the recruits to arrive .We have already alloted officer to the future companies :I’ve got the 4th and my captain will be lieutenant gallart , the ex-waiter .

The village couldn’t be more dismal :It’s boxed in and you can’t see until you’re inside .It’s boundaries are extensive ,it’s mostly barren waste with the large olive trees that account for its name .

The arrival at the village with the woman of the Castilo de Olivo .

The book follows Lieutenant lluis Ruscalleda he is assigned to Aragonese front in 1937 he is a lawyer (in some ways you could say this is in some  part  Joan sales ), he arrives but start away doesn’t fir in his comrades seem to like a drink and he isn’t a drinker , but along the way he meets a woman the women of the Castilo de OLivo , she is an intriguing woman , that intrigues the lieutenant she became the lady of the house after she was a servant in the house  .Meanwhile Lluis is writing back to Trini his former lover that is a new woman and that is struggling with the war to bring up their son .The winter sees the brigade is sent to a quiet part of the line this brings even more problems , Lluis also writes to his brother and we also see Trini write to her old friend about her struggles with life .Add to this the war isn’t going their way and a strong streak of Catholic guilt and the church in the war , in the story we see the spanish civil war from a Catalan point of view from the losing side .A picture of the chaos that civil war is .

29 june

Dear juli , I received a letter from Lluis the day before yesterday after weeks without one .I was so pleased to hear you are both in the same brigade .I hadn’t heard from him so long ! The only news I had was the monthly postal order he dent me without fail .

Trini on the home front so to speak worries about Lluis at the front .

I have read a number of novels about the civil war those written in recent years ,by the likes of  Manual Rivas , that look back at the aftermath and Chaos of the war once the dust had settled so to speak  his book carpenters pencil looked at being a prisoner and returning after the war .I have also read a couple of books by English languages writers written that were involved with the Spanish civil war  one by Hemingway which isn’t like this book as his writing is full of bravado  .The other is  the novella by George Orwell Homage to Catalonia ,which is the nearest to this book as it follows Orwell’s time at the front .But this book adds more dimension to the fighting given its form , which is an epistolary novel what we are given is the full picture of the fighting , life on the front line not just the fighting but the sitting on the front line .We also see from Trini the life on the home front what is it like raising a kid in the war .The characters in the book , give a full picture of the world around them ,Sales brings lots of details to the story that make the war leap of the page .as we see how the war effects each character changing the relationships but also the view of the world around them .

Have you a favourite book about the spanish civil war ?

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