Fado Alexandrino by António Lobo Antunes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fado Alexandrino by António Lobo Antunes

Portuguese literature

Original title – Fado Alexabdrino

Translator – Gregory Rabassa

Source – Personal copy

When I choose to expand out Spanish lit month to include literature from Portuguese, one of the  writers I had in mind was another book by Antunes, I read knowledge of hell a couple of years ago and after that brought a number of his books to read in recent years he has been on the list of possible Nobel prize winners. This book is considered his best book. Antunes like the men in this book served in the military in Africa, he also worked as a doctor with men after the wars in Africa as a Psychiatrist.

“I was married and had a daughter this high “the second lieutenant said, smiling at the spoons the waiter was serving the mear with. “I was living on the Rue da Mae d’Agua, below the fountain, and after intimacies, even with the light off, I could see the round ball of the paper lamp, looking like an enormus moon, sowing Japanese ghosts in the darkness.(The breathing of his wife beside him and of his daughter in the otger room flooded the floor with a murmur of sounds that rose and sank like the soft flutter of a dress.

The men recall better days at times but always with a sense of loss in the words the say.

Fado Alexandro is a book in three parts that follow five men through the periods of their lives. Thye five men although four tell the story the fifth the captain of the men is in the background, the men are all in the military a soldier, a Lieutenant Colonel, a communication officer and a second lieutenant. The book opens in the years before the Revolution in Portugal and the war in Mozambique they all take apart, in fact, not all came back. Then there is the fall of the regime in the Carnation revolution, it is part of what happens there that cause the rest of their lives to go on the paths they did. Both lieutenants marriages fail and they take up with the different woman as one wife was upper class and a large amount is remembered of how hard it was for them to get together. Then there is buying a young girl in Africa. A death and the communication officer’s daughter tells her father story in the later section. The book follows the four as they all are scarred by war and their relationships with woman.

“Four of these lady friends plus the four  of us make eight hot whores ,” the lieutenant colonel told the second lieutenant , still suspious of the champagne , massaging his stomach. “What will your neighbours say when they see us ?”

Me, for example, I’m my mother, he thought , a ridiculous old woman who wore gauze, rings perfume, makeup and creams , her artifical nylon eyelashes fluttering like insect winhs, clumsily attempting to seduce the grocer in hop of a little discount on a jug of wine, because I started drinking towards the end of my life,

THe view of woman isn’t the best at times

This is a complex book about the time that followed the fall of Estado Novo regime following a coup by the military. The many wars in Africa as the Estado Novo tried to keep the old Portuguese colonies under their rule, in this case, Mozambique, Antunes spent time in Angola but both wars were very brutal in what happened there. Through the five men we see the brutal nature of the war is recounted in the stream of consciousness of the men’s lives and relationships, in particular, the  wives, woman they fuck and women the don’t fuck these are very nasty men in their natures All this book like Ulysses happens over one night as the four remaining men meet for a meal and get very drunk and recount their stories as record in the novel. So there is a sense at times of lines of the men and their stories blending that thing you get as men with a shared experience and recounting it the who, what, why and how can get blurred sometimes.  A powerful of men and war from a European version of what happened to American Vietnam in Africa.

The painter of birds by Lidia Jorge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The painter of birds by Lidia Jorge

Portuguese literature

Original title – O Vale da Paixão

Translator – Margaret Jull Costa

Source – personal copy

Well, I managed to return after a busy while, my first lot of nights in my new job and a course and two long days meant the days off I had in between all this I hadn’t much chance to blog. But as I said last month I choose, to add some literature from Portugal, I looked up on Wiki a number of writers from the region and decided to choose those that were available second hand. Lidia Jorge is considered one of the leading voices of the new wave of writers that came after the Salazar regime. She spent time in Africa married to a military man then she lived with a well-known Journalist. This book won a number of prizes when it came out.THis book also covers woman in translation month.

For that reason,  on the night Walter Dias visited her, the bullets and the revolver were out of sight, and he wanted to take the gun away from her on that rainy night , he wanted to take the gun with him, but she realized that if he took it, when walter did disappearm he might disappear entirely. He even said to her “Don’t be silly!”But she couldn’t give him back the weapon. Giving it back would be like handing over the fragile link that bound his existance to hers.

They meet but she doesn’t want to let him go and break that bond that links them .

The painter of birds is the story when a young woman the narrator of the books starts to look back other her absent father’s life. SHe has a strained relationship with him and in the family farmhouse where she is just inland from the Algarve where Jorge grew up is salt worn from the sea. He painted pictures in his letter home from his many travels as she read through these letters and she sees the father she never really knew. There is no strong time line in the book so there is a real sense of the present and past drifting together as she reads and the world and place he went to coming alive.As the bits she knows the pictures family tales bring Walter Dias a man she only twice met in her younger years.A rogue of a man who left the nearest neighbours daughter her mother with child and started to travel the world with the army fighting in the various wars from the 30s onwards.

Francisco Dias used to talk about Walter too.

It was clear to him that black cloud hung over his youngest son. He would say so to anyone who would listen when he had free times on Sundays, before dozing off, though never speaking directly to Walter’s niece, but then he never spoke to her anywayy. He did not, however, conceal from her the difference between Walter and his other sons, should she care to hear, if she could hear.She walked among them as if she were deaf, and didn’t care whether she heard him or not.Francisco Dias put it all down to school, the place where, in his opinion, the life of a man was not only shaped but also summarized and foretold.THis is how he explained it.

Her grandfather had a very different view of his wayward son .

I like the narrative flow of this book it had a crime like pace but with a sense of  piecing  the past together piece by piece but also a sense of not seeing it all as Walter is a rogue but also does these wonderful bird pictures, but then there is the past of Walter from her  family tell her of him a man that ran out on her and her mother and briefly appeared in her she wants to love him, this will appeal to the fans of books like English patient as both share a sense of piecing  the past together from fragments and piece of gossip and side stories.

 

Seeing red by Lina Meruane

Image result for lina meruane seeing red

 

Seeing red by Lina Meruane

Chilean fiction

Original title –Sangre en el ojo

Translator – Megan Mcdowell

Source – review copy

This is another book that deep Vellum brought out but I never got to the e-book, so I was pleased when I was sent a copy from Atlantic books.It shows the talent that is coming from Latin America also the talented female writers. This ticks two boxes one from Spanish lit month and the other for  Woman translation month. As I say there seems to be a number of great Latin American writers and like most of them Lina Meruane is based in New York where she got a degree in Latin American literature, which she now teaches. She has written four novels this is her first to be translated into English.

But no , it was no fire i was seeing, it was blood spilling outminside my eye. The most shockingly beautiful blood I have ever seen.The most outrageous.The most terrifying.The blood gushed, but only I could see it.With absolute clarityI watched as it thickened, I saw rhe pressure rise, I watched as I got dizzy, I saw my stomach turn, saw that I was starting to retch, and even s.I didn’t straighten up or move an inch, didn’t even try to breathe while I watched the show. Because that was the last thing I would see, that night though that eye: a deep, black blood

As the Haemorrage is happening described by Lucina.

This is a novel that is partly based on the writers own experience. Like Lucina in the book Lina has also experienced what it is like to lose her sight. The book follows Lucina a young Chilean writer, who has come to New York like many writers from Latin America, the early part follows her when knows she has a condition that means some point, she may lose her sight. So when it happens it is still a shock to her. But also to her boyfriend who becomes her eyes Ignacio becomes her eyes as we see her become  familiar with using her other senses more as the world one familiar become very alien to her and even her most personal relationship has to readjust to make way for her blindness, but also the change it has made for Lucina as a person. Someone more connected to her emotions than she was before with more feeling and in a strange way seeing the world more without sight than she ever did with sight.

Ignacio is still in the airport, a disconcerted frown on his face. Ignacio standing under the glowing screen. Bepatures.Arrivals.His glasses glint over his now-empty eyes.Its an aged and ruined Ignacio. An Ignacio cracked like an old statue on the verge of collapse. His shirt with sleeves rolled up and his linen pants utterly tattered and his dull bronze shoes fixed to the floor. Centuroieshave passed I think, and there he remains covered by ash or dust of my depature,clutching the anxious kiss I blew to him.

A man broken in a way by caring and seeing her slipping away in a way .

Now blindness has been tackled at various times in Literature, Saramago Blindness where everyone goes blind, but it maybe captures the anger we feel her in Meruane words. The Day of the triffids shows the sheer panic one can feel when one lose the sight. But this is also a story of how a person adapts completely. Having worked many years ago with Older blind people, I get the stoic nature of Lucina, but also the underlying anger at times. A wonderfully observed book of snatch dreams and new turns in a life that has been part of the writer’s own story shows the current power of female writers from Latin America or as Bolano said of her one of the one or two greats on the new generation of  Chilean writers who promise to have it all. Great words about her.

 

A quick glance back at Sept to July for Woman in Translation

I have not made many plans for the woman in translation month. I feel as I review just books in translation these days I review as many woman writers as I come across or I am sent. So I decide like Tony have a look back over the last twelve months and a list of woman reviewed here.

Two green otters by Bucket Uzuner – a tale of one woman’s life struggling through 80’s turkey.

Trysting by Emmanuelle Pagano – unnamed voices of lovers talking about love and sex

Woman as lovers by Elfriede Jelinek – two factory girls love lives told through the years.

The Empress and the Cake by Linda Stift – A woman drawn into a bizarre old world of Austria

 

None like her by Jela  Krečič- a macho man searches for some one to replace his great love.

The boy by Wytske Versteeg – a Dutch couple adopt a boy but is he all he seems.

Swallowing mercury by Wioletta Greg – childhood memories of childhood in Poland .

Cockroaches by Sholastique Mukasonga glimpse of growing up in Rwanda before the troubles.

Breathing into Marble by Laura Sintija Cerniauskaite- another family adopt a child as their son is ill.

 

Image of Magdaléna Platzová’s “The Attempt”

The Attempt by Magdalena Platzova- A historian follows a famous anarchist she is writing about.

Our lady of the Nile by  Scolastique Mukasonga – the second book by her now her school years.

Fever dream by Samanta Schweblin – a woman remembers a past as she has a fever in a bed beside a child.

Mirror shoulder signal by Dorthe Nors – a woman learns to drive but all is not as it seems.

Hair everywhere by Tea Tulic – a mosaic of a family life with the mother dying.

Belladonna by  Daša Drndić– academic looks back on his life and history of the 20th century.

 

The children by Carolina Sanin– a woman ends up with a strange boy and tries to find his family.

Eve out of her ruins by Ananda Devi– a young girl growing up in Mauritius.

Our Dead World by Liliana Colanzi– Short stories from Bolivia.

Nona’s room by Cristina Fernandez Cubas– a collection of stories the title about a sister that has a special sister.

Before by Carmen Boullosa- a young girl talking about growing up in Mexico.

twenty books in all. out of 88 books read in the last eleven months.

Inventing Love by Jose Ovejero

 

Inventing Love

Inventing Love by Jose Ovejero

Spanish fiction

Original title – La invención del amor

Translators Simon Deerholts and Kathryn Phillips-Miles

Source – Review copy

Well, I reach the last of the Peter Owen World series of books for Spain the second in a series they are doing three books twice a year from one country. I have now reviewed all six of the books. Simon Smith from Peter Owen was interviewed about the series recently on LARB  about the books so far and what is to come in the series. Jose Ovejero is a prize winning Spanish writer, he has written seven novels so far and this is his second book to be translated into English. This book Inventing love won the Premio Alfagura de Novela prize in Spain one of the biggest prizes there.

“What’s up?”

“I’m sorry Samuel, I’m really sorry,”

“I think you have got the wrong number “, I say , but my conviction falters when I realize that he’s calling me by my name .

“It’s about Clara.This evenong .Not long ago.Fuck ,I’m sorry.”

“Clara”, I say and I rack my brains, thinkinh that I don’t want him to hang up yet .Before I go to sleep I need to hear this story which is not my story, precisely so that it can become mine, too just as we read a novel in order to add storie to our lives, stories which , however dramatic they may be, are acctually innocuous, we think, because they can’t really affect us

Samuel drawn in straight away to the story of Clara like a Novel he thinks .

This book is based on what happens when a man Samuel in his forties gets a call out of the blue telling him a woman called Clara, the assumption that Samuel was her secret lover. He wasn’t but then decides to find out how the mistake happened and go to the Funeral and decides to invent the past these two had but never had. He meets at the funeral Carina the sister of Clara and she gives him a lift home.He feels bad for lying to her when she drops him off and the sense of closeness he has got to Carina, As the two are drawn together the imagine the past becomes too real at times and maybe stands in the way of moving forward. What happens when you Invent Love ? does Real love survive it?

I read the name on the card – Carina Alvarez – and suddenly I feel uncomfortable. I get the sensation that i’ve gone too far, althoug I also feel relieved that I ‘ve managed to get out of a tight spot rather well.For the sake of something to do, I take a card from my wallet as well and hand it to her, as if we ewere in a buisness meeting meeting , except the only thing written on my card is mynname, telephone  number and email.I’ve never liked buisness cards.She takes it reads it and leaves it on the dashboard.

“I’m pleased to have met you at last, even if the ocasion …Im mean …what a mess”

Samuel firstr meetinmg Clara sister at the fueral, where he likes Carina …

What I loved about this book is that it isn’t a straightforward love story. The real story is of  Samuel and Carina but then there is an imagined love story and the real sense of this almost being a pulp thriller at times as the story unfolds and Samuel discovers more about Clara and Carina he has to move like a detective and adjust his present and also his imagined past.This is one of those stories that happens from those moments that can happen by accident would we do what Samuel did in his position ? that is the question can the lie be kept alive through out and not be caught out.

Winter Quarters by Osvaldo Soriano

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winter Quarters by Osvaldo Soriano

Argentinian fiction

Original title –  Cuarteles de invierno

Translator – Nick caistor

Source – Personal copy

Another Latin American novel for Spanish lit month.This time I revisit a writer from the past , Osvaldo Soriano. He died in 1997. He started his writing life as a journalist. But as he was considered left wing. There was a period of six months where he had none of his articles being published. So he wrote a novel about Stan Laurel with Philip Marlow as character. He later placed this book at Laurel’s grave. This was his third novel and his second book to be translated into English, his book dirty  A funny Little war was the first which I reviewed here   . This is a follow on to that book set in the same small village in A funny dirty little war.

The two men waiting on the platform looked bored. The one who seemed to be the station master wore a shiny black suit. A cigarette dangled from his lips. The other , a fatmman in blue overalls was waving qa dim lantern in the direction of the train driver. I picked up my case and started down the aisle .The compartment was almost empty ; the other passengers were sprawled out asleep .I jumped down onto the platform and looked around .

The opening and a low key greeting for Andres Galvan arrivial in Colonia Vela

This book follows two characters that have washed up in the small village of  Colonia Vela three years after the original book. Rocha a down on his heels boxer, but to coin the old boxing phrase, he was a contender at one point having won a big fight earlier in his career. He has been brought here as an opponent. To fight the up and coming local champion who also happens to be the Army’s champion. Rocha meets Anders Galvin a clever but also like Rocha that has also seen his best day he is a Tango singer. Both are there for the same event.We see the boxer fall for the Mayor’s daughter as they are there to be the losers on the night and there are no two ways about that. A tale of two losers drawn together in a small town.

“Come nd visit ,” Rocha said to me .”If you decide to stay and want to see me before the fight, I’ve already forgiven you fior what you said, so ..”

“Thanks ” I replied. “I’ll come and see you tomorrow. And take care, they reckon the local kid is hot stuff..”

He straightrened my tie with his good hand “I’ll dump him in the third” He took out a large banknote and stuck it into my top pocket with a flourish.”Pay for the room and let me have the change later”

The two meet and Rocha doesn’t see the full picture  of the fight !

Now I read up about Soriano life for the first part and discovered he was a fan of Philip Marlowe,  so much that he was a character in his first novel. This is a homage to those sort of streets that Chandler wrote about in his books. Rocha and Anders are, like Marlowe more complex characters than they appear, Rocha, the boxer is not the cleverest person but wants to fall in love and settle down and escape the past in a way.Andres is the clever one her a tango singer that wants to a help his friend ending up as a pulp due to the fight. This is a classic buddy story but also set to the backdrop and politics of the country at the time. When the country was run by the military, this was also just after the defeat in the Falklands

The ultimate Tragedy by Abdulai Sila

The Ultimate Tragedy

 

The ultimate Tragedy by Abdulai Sila

Guinea Bissau fiction

Original title –  A Última Tragédia

Translator – Jethro Soutar

Source – Personal copy

Well I decide to add Portuguese lit to the Spanish lit month I had a look at what was out there and this is one of the first books to catch my eye as it is the first book from Guinea Bissau to be translated into English. Abdulai Sila studied electrical engineering and worked for cisco and other companies in the US before he returned to Guinea Bissau, where he set up Sila Technologies to bring affordable tech to his homeland. He has written three novels this is his second book and the first to be translated into English.

Ndani had prepared for the journey meticulously. Nobody in Biombo knew anythingabout it, nobody other than her friendly stepmother. It was her stepmother who’d taught her ghe phrase she was now repeating, and one of two others besides. Her stepmother had een made Ndani memorise certain rules of behaviour, things white masters demanded of black house helps: particular ways to respond; gestures that showed b=obedience and submission

The young girl needs to learn how to be in the big city for the white folk !!

This is maybe a classic African tale it is the story of one woman’s journey and also shows a time when Africans in the former Portuguese colonies were starting to question the place in the world. Ndani is sent from her rural village to work for a Portuguese family in the capital Bissau. The first thing that happens is the woman of the house starts to try and get her to believe in the church as her children have flown the nest and her husband has his eyes elsewhere she is trying to baptise the young girl, but as Dona Deolinda is doing this. The master of the house has other ideas for the young maid she tries to esca[e him but in doing so is shown the door . Where on she meets the village cheif  Regulo, but he is uneducated but the young girl is settled he has tried to improve his village much to the opposition of the administrator, by building a school and his huge house to try and show the locals are moving up in the world. Ndani also meets the teacher from the school a man she connects with but what will happen.

“Thou shalt not covet”, one of gods comandments . She was Regulo’s wife , the teacher could harbour no ambition to have her. God’s laws were sacred, they had to be upheld. Violating them would be a sin. A good christian and a teacher besides,must not sin. At least not in such a flagrant fashion. This is something he taught his students every day ,how could he ignore it himself ? nor could he ignore the fact that the Regulo had been good to him

The teacher after first meeting Ndani is torn between religion and Lust in a way .

As I said a classic tale of a young woman leaving her home, now she has been told by the local juju man that she is the carrier of a bad spirit and in a a lot of ways her journey is a long one and through her eyes we see the awakening of the locals in the Village chief and the way he wants his village to improve. As I say this is a universal story It reminds me of one of my favourite stories Stones in a landslide which also followed a young girls journey from a village. There are other stories from Africa like the Zimbabwean novel Nervous conditions which show a young girl growing up in the background of that country breaking from colonial rule. May I also say this is one of the most eye catching covers of the year.

That was the month was July 2017

  1. The 6:41 to Paris by Jean-Philippe Blondel
  2. Love and Garbage by Ivan Klima
  3. Nona’s room by Cristina Fernandez Cubas
  4. The hive by Camilo Jose Cela
  5. The Irish Sea by Carlos Maleno
  6. Severina by Rodrigo Rey Rosa
  7. Wolf Moon by Julio Llamazares
  8. The secret of Evil by Roberto Bolano
  9. Ash Wednesday by Miguel-Anxo Murado
  10. Before by Carmen Boullosa

I manage to read books from 6 countries last month. I also read from one new publisher New Vessel a press, I had been wanting to try so was pleased to get a paper edition of one of their books. I started my new job this month and I am now doing three long days a week doing 13 and half hour days which will take some time to get a new blog routine. I fully started last week of the month as I had 19-day training last month. Anyway back to the blog we got off to a good start with Spanish lit month. I managed to read 8 books for that and expanded it out next month to include Portuguese lit into the Spanish lit month.

Book Of July

Image result for the hive camilo jose cela

The Hive was my book of the month the second book by the late Nobel winner Camilo Jose Cela was a book buzzong with life of post civil war Spain an undercurrent of the anger that was just below. It was one of two books about the civil war the second was Wolf moon also following a post civil war that with people on the run and hiding from Franco’s forces.

Non Book discovery

I have to keep harping back on to Mark Kozelek band Sun Kill Moon released a second collaboration with British experimental band Jesu. This like his three most recent records is Mark singing about his life and day to day events around him, he has become in some ways the Thomas Bernhard of alt rock in these recent albums a vent of anger at times and also a world wide view. This is just a singer at the peak of his songwriting.

Here is one of my favourite tracks a one with a number of Lit references in it as he received a book from a fan that is a bit of a beat hipster in the way he looks.

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