Good offices by Evelio Rosero the 500th translation review

Good offices BY Evelio Rosero

Good Offices by Eveilo Rosero

Columbian Fiction

Original title – Los Alumerzos

TRanslator – Anne McLean and Anna Milsom

Source – review copy


“The Sick Bed Of Cuchulainn”

McCormack and Richard Tauber are singing by the bed
There’s a glass of punch below your feet and an angel at your head
There’s devils on each side of you with bottles in their hands
You need one more drop of poison and you’ll dream of foreign lands

When you pissed yourself in Frankfurt and got syph down in Cologne
And you heard the rattling death trains as you lay there all alone
Frank Ryan brought you whiskey in a brothel in Madrid
And you decked some fucking blackshirt who was curing all the Yids
At the sick bed of Cuchulainn we’ll kneel and say a prayer
And the ghosts are rattling at the door and the devil’s in the chair

This pogues song reminded me of the debauchery in the book .

Well been mulling over what to pick to be the 500th translated title on this blog I passed 500 reviews a while ago . So after a nudge on twitter .I choose a Maclehose press title , a publisher that in a way has been around as long as this blog and strangely was the first that decide to send me copies of their books to review . So as the first title for this Spanish lit month I’ve chosen a former IFFP winning writer .Evelio Rosero is a Columbian writer and Journalist , he has written nine novels so far . I love his motto ” A heart that feels , Eyes that see” so true of every great writer .

Of indefinable age , Father Matamoros – Reverend Father San Jose Matamoros del Palacio – was indeed a rare bird in the parish church , grey and featherless , come from heavens know where . He wore dark clothes and a grey turtleneck sweater instead of a dog collar ; his jacket looked borrowed , it was too big for him : his round toed school shoes , almost black , were scuffed and the soles were gone , the laces white ; he wore square glasses , one lens cracked down the middle , one arm mended with a dirty strip of sticking plaster .

Would you trust this man ?

Good Offices is a story of two worlds and the institution that connects them in Columbia . The story follows two events the first is the meal. That a Father Almida is going to with a rich benefactor to his church . His church is one that deals with the street folk of the city .Now back at his church , he has given the service to an old drunken Vicar Father Matamoros to run things at his church  a church with a rota of visitors street folks , prostitutes and the blind each have their day in the week . Now things back at the church descend into a drunken feast as the events going on are observed by the hunchback Tancredo as he joins Matamoros in the drunken party to end all parties .All this is being viewed  The Lillas are the old women and had prepared the meal for him but didn’t see what was coming .

Father San Jose’s mass was no ordinary Mass .

To the surprise and delight of the congregation that evening , it turned out to be a sung mass . Who could have imagined that father Matamoros beside bringing his own water to the altar, would turn out to be a perfect cantor

Well the night is young  here !

I reread this book in a day after not getting to review it when it came out a couple of  years ago .I enjoyed it at the time but in this reread I really got the humour the satire side of the book , a descent into madness .I love the contrast between the drunk goings on and the posh meal . Also the way it shows the two worlds in this country the wealth and the poverty .Mamatmoros is like a Latin american extra from father Ted a drunken Latin American Father Jack , but this also has echos of Graham Greene in a way that it exposes the catholic church and the way it runs in the church .The original title maybe suit the book dinners as it is a book about contrasts in the way it unfolds the two dinners in two worlds that maybe have this one connection the church .I enjoyed this if I get chance I will be reviewing his latest book later this month on the blog .

Have you a favourite novel that involves the church ?

7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. kaggsysbookishramblings
    Jul 01, 2015 @ 20:35:40

    500 translated reviews is some achievement – well done Stu!


  2. Richard
    Jul 01, 2015 @ 20:45:07

    Vargas Llosa’s Conversation in the Cathedral is a favorite novel involving the church. Of course, the “Cathedral” of the title isn’t a real church, so I guess that wouldn’t count! Glad you reviewed a Rosero novel, Stu, for your 500th translated title and the first for Spanish Lit Month 2015. I’ve been wanting to read Rosero’s The Armies for years, but this sounds pretty good, too.


  3. Robin Mizell
    Jul 01, 2015 @ 23:38:19

    Five hundred is an impressive accomplishment. Nice job!


  4. Dagny
    Jul 02, 2015 @ 00:46:20

    Congratulations, Stu!

    I enjoyed Zola’s Three Cities Trilogy (Lourdes, Rome and Paris) featuring Abbe Pierre Froment.


  5. JacquiWine
    Jul 02, 2015 @ 06:32:34

    Congratulations on your 500th review of lit in translation – that’s quite an achievement!


  6. jeff_lyn
    Jul 02, 2015 @ 10:23:46

    500 great reviews, Rosero is another example of the good and bad of reading in translation, great book and author , but knowing that he has written 9 novels ,I think, is frustrating waiting for more to be available.


  7. Bellezza
    Jul 03, 2015 @ 00:42:46

    “A heart that feels, eyes that see” already appeals to me greatly! (Wouldn’t that be a great tag line for a blog, too?!) I’m intrigued that it’s won the IFFP previously, too; what a good choice for Spanish Lit Month. (I’ve fallen on A Heart so White, and Severina, as they were so highly praised last year.)


Leave a Reply to jeff_lyn Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

July 2015


%d bloggers like this: