Octavio’s journey by Miguel Bonnefoy
Original title – Le Voyage d’Octavio
Translator – Emily Boyce
Source = review copy
I hope to reach 100 french books under review on the blog this year and one of those publishers that has helped me reach that total is Gallic books they mainly publish french fiction and this is the first book by them I have reviewed this year and it is one that was a runaway success in france for a debut novel . Miguel Bonnefoy was born to a Venezuelan Mother and a Chilean father he spent his childhood in France, Venezuela and Portugal this book was on the longlist for the Prix Goncourt for a first novel .
Don Octavio was born of this land,
He lived on the hillside in a modest , flimsy , slate clad house to which he held no deeds. The space must have formed a single room, was decided into a living room and bedroom , wardrobe stood beside a glassleess, curtainless window typical of the tropics , with a camp bed and rush-seat chair nearby. At the back of the living room , candles burnt on a little altar, casting flickers of light on the walls. Apostle figures were carved into beroom handles and also etched on glass which had been filed with rum to guard against misfortune . The scent of wild herbs hung in the air
His humble home was a simple beginning for Don Octavio
This is one of those books that maybe short but seems much longer the book follows the life of Octavio , we meet the young boy as he is unable to read as he is sent by the doctor to the chemist luckily whilst embarrassed a woman named Venezuela like his homeland opens this young boys eyes to the power of words as the two fall in love , Don Octavio grows and we drift into the past of his homeland as the church arrives land is saved by a lemon tree that is seemed as a miracle . Then Don Octavio journey to the heart of his country and the jungle and sees how the country is and decides to stay there .This is one mans journey to the heart of his country and feeling in doing that .
Venezuela suffered from acute insomnia , which meant that for the past twenty years she had to nap at odd times of the day . She had grown used to irregular bedtime, sometimes eating in bed and getting up in the ,middle of the night roam her apartment. the doctor advised ger to stop taking her sleeping pills. Out of embarrassment, she began avoiding pharmacies where she might be recognised and ventures out to the little chemists shops in the suburbs where she could buy what she needed unnoticed amid the anonymity of the crowd
The woman who teaches Don Octavio to read but is she also an allegory for the home land in recent years .
This is of course a book that owes a lot to Marquez and even in someway I felt Calvino . There is a magic realism at work When Don Octavio seems to move back through the history of his homeland and that is what is at the heart of this book an ode to Venezuela , we here much of their recent trouble this is a look back at what is the beauty at the heart of the country a woman , the forest and the chance to make something of yourself like Don Octavio he is maybe a sign of what can happen in Latin America where one can become someone from none . Another books I was reminded of is G Cabrera Infantes book a view of dawn in the tropics which also like this book mixed fiction with the history of his homeland in Infante’s case Cuba here we see Bonnefoy in an ode to his homeland and a fable like tale of what was and maybe a feeling that is lost . This is under hundred pages long a perfect evening read .