Severina by Rodrigo Rey Rosa

 

Severina by Rodrigo Rey Rosa

Guatemalan Fiction

Original title – Severina

Translator – Chris Andrews

Source – Personal copy

This is the second book I have reviewed on the blog from Rey Rosa, the first was the African shore like this book was published by Yale Press. Rey Rosa travels after school, this is where he meets the American writer Paul Bowles in Tangiers, where Bowles translated his books into English, also on his death made Rey Rosa in charge of his estate. This book is a love story of sorts both of a relationship and the life long journey we all take as readers through the city of Lit and its many turns.

The next time, two or three weeks later, when I saw her come in , I said good afternoon and asked if she was looking for something in particular.

“Yes, I’m looking for a present ” were the forst wprds I heard her say .

“Can I ask who it’s for ?”

“For my boyfriend,” She said. She had an unidentifiable accent.

“well, you’re the best judge. There are  some new books  in the Japanese literatuere section ”

Her face lit up

“Ah ,” She said.”I love Japanese literature”

He saw her take some Japanese books on the previous visit, this passage made me Laugh

Severina is the name of a girl, we don’t find this out till later in the book. We first see her in a bookshop being observed by the narrator who is also the owner of the said bookshop “La Entrenida” that he and a group of friends they choose to open due to paying so much for their own books. This is a boring Monday afternoon when he observes the girl he had seen before but this time he follows her around the shop noting each of the books that she has picked up and hidden on a couple of occasions. He lets her off but is drawn into her life. Where we see both her life and his life of a bookseller. But also as a lover of lit from the writers he reads and his friends reads.Again another book that mentions Borges and his Mirrors and maybe the Narrator sees a mirror in Severina  Then Ana Severina grandfather falls ill and this changes the picture between the two main characters.

“I rushed to the door and down the corridor , ran up the stair, but she had disappeared. I returned to the bookstore. My head was spinning. A pemonition sent me back to the shelf beside which I had kissed her, and I discovered that she had taken another book. A hardback edition of Faulkner’s The Wild Palms, translated by Borges. Rather than anger. I felt a strange relief. I went to the cash register and added Faulkners novel to the list of stolen books.

Wild Palms was a book that was influnencial in the latin american world after this translton by Borges .

This is a very short novella clocking in at 87 pages unlike the African shore this is a story told from the unnamed shop owner a first person narrative. There is a  book revolves around a book that might have been Borges and inspired one of his Mirror stories. I always love the way Borges stories ripple out and touch other writers.There are lots clever names like the shop is Spanish for Mistress the surname of Ana grandfather Mr White to name two there are others. There is also the love story between the narrator and Severina is almost like a mirror.

July 2017
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