London Under Snow by Jordi Llavina

London Under Snow by Jordi Llavina

Spanish Fiction

original title – Londres nevat

Translator – Douglas Suttle

Source – review copy

I am late to this it was sent last year but I tried to read it during the first long down but I wasn’t in the mood for a subtle work like this is. The writer Jordi Llavina is a Catalan writer and cultural journalist He has hosted a tv show on books and radio shows as well. He has written novels, poems, and short stories and it is with a short story collection we get to read him for the first time in English. He won the Josep Pla prize one of the big book prizes in Spain. This is the second book from the new press Fum d’estampa press that brings a mix of the best in contemporary and classic Catalan literature. Another possibility for the Booker international prize maybe ?

I first arrived London on a Feburary day in 2009. I was thirty years old. Among my persopnal effects I had a black leather notebook like those that Le Corbusier once used to sketch out architectural ideas or to note down some of his theoretical or techincal thoughts . On the second blank page, I wrote a title “London Under Snow (and other reflections) ” in pencil

Five day before I was to set off for the English capita, a colossal snowstorm had set alarm bells ringing and I was worried that the tick blanket of snow shown on the newspapers front pages would turn into s terrible layer of ice- I didn’t realise that the sefvices in London actually work reasonably well snowploughs, workers with reflective jackets and armed with spades and salt all work together to remove the settled snow.

Just as he is to go to Londo it is turned white and the lakes around get frozen up.

The book has six short stories that all have a theme of memory and loss involved in them they blur the line between the writer’s real life and a fictional world. The collection starts with the title story a look back at the first time the writer visited London. A wintery London he describes it being shown that it is snowing in London before he arrives it see him try and get a hat for a friend that is from a costly shop ending up with a fake but then trying to get the original only to try and return years later and the shop is gone. This last part of the story reminds me of when Helene Hanff went to the carcass of 84 Charing ross road. The next story is about a family one a message of a cousin the Andalusian had stopped at his parent’s house many years ago he had shared a room he remembers unpacking his stuff and that he went to live in a small village in Mexico he laments the loss of contact with other family members as his life has moved on. The other stories also see him have a couple that is coping with the grief of losing a baby. Loss of a home with a homeless man. There was another about a man who reminds him of his old drama teacher.

My Andlausian cousin is dead, A few days ago. I received a telegram sent from a post offive in the Mexican village where he had lived since the ninties. It had been sent by a woman with a name that was almost as pretty as that of the village where she had most likely spent the last few years of her life with him. I hadn’t heard anything from him for around a decade and a half but, while we having had little to do with each other’s life, we were quite fond of each other. Three had been a period when he was still living in Andalusia, before the rude interruption of electronic mail, that we would write long letters to one another on a monthly basis.He was eighteen months younger than me and had died [rematurely at the age of Forty-five.

I was remind in this of the end lines of the film standf by me where the narrator of the film talks of his friend chris he hadn’t seen in manyu year but would never forget!

There is a theme of memory and loss around these stories. I am reminded in this collection themes are in that Portuguese word Saudade that is a feeling of loss and longing is hanging here. From a tale of a hat , the notice of the loss of a family member. The style is subtle gentle writing of his life those he has known as I said I struggled to get the voice of him in my head as I read but this time I did. Proust came to mind in the first story the hat was a similar device to that of Proust’s Madeline that unlocks the memory of trying to get the hat for his friend. It blurs the lines of fiction and biography so you not sure it if is the writer’s actual life or just a mere work of fiction. A wonderful intro to a new voice lets hope we get to read some more from this thoughtful writer. Have you read any of the books the Fum d’Estampa has brought out in the last year or so?

Winstons score A-

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. kaggsysbookishramblings
    Mar 06, 2021 @ 20:25:37

    I’ve read one Fum d’Estampa so far, which was excellent, plus the first story from this collection. It’s a great initiative! 😀

    Reply

  2. 1streading
    Mar 08, 2021 @ 15:22:04

    I read this for Borderless Book Club and really enjoyed it – I’d be happy to see it on the Booker International longlist.

    Reply

  3. Trackback: That was the month that was March 2021 and Booker reaction | Winstonsdad's Blog

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