The last days of el Comandante by Alberto Barrera Tyszka

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last day of el Comandante by Alberto Barrera Tsyzka

Venezuelan fiction

Original title –  Patria o muerte

Translators – Rosalind Harvey and Jessie Mendez Sayer

Source – review copy

Now back to Spanish lit month and here I have a second book from Alberto Barrera Tyszka. I reviewed the Sickness when it was on the IFFP list. That was eight years ago so this last book that follows the time running up to the death of Hugo Chavez from a main character and those around him, Tyszka wrote Chavez’s  biography he is influenced by writers such as Dostoyevski, Dumas, Stevenson, and Chekov as well as Salvador Garmendia and Jose Ignacio Cabrujus two of the greatest Venezuelan writers of recent years.

“I wouldn’t be surorised if it was all lies,” Beatriz muttered “Something the cubans made up to distract us.”

Sanabria wathced in silence.

Chavez looked thin and pale. He was on his feet behind the podium, and , oddly he was reading out a written text instead of improvising in front of the camera, It was unheard of for this man, so fond of speaking for hours in fromt of any audience, to restrict himself to a few word, suddenly held hostage by a small piece of paper.

I loved that last line of being held hosatge by a piece of paper this man that could talk for hours starting to look unwell !

The main character in the book is a retired Oncologist Miguela Sanabria he is sort of a middling figure neither anti or pro Chavez but given his previous profession, his opinion is sort by both sides. His wife is very anti-Chavez in her views. He is contacted by his brother a pro-Chavez then his Nephew Vladimir who is high up in the regime who has hold of a mobile that has the truth about how bad the president is a recording whilst Chavez had surgery. Outside all this Miguel is asked by a mysterious Cuban to become chairman of the condominium they live in. Their neighbor Fredy is writing about Chavez but is offered a fresh angle on this book. When he is given a chance to see some medical reports. that means he will have to leave alone without his family for the US. THen There is Young Maria being homeschooled by her mother  Cecilla who is stuck in the apartment as she is scared of the outside world. So Maria turns to Chat rooms after Cecilla has the internet installed to keep the little girl in touch with the outside world. She talks to Fedy son Rodrigo on these chat rooms they offer a different view on the world around . them. This is a snapshot of Middle-class lives in Venezuela as the life of Chavez hung in the Balance.

“The problem isn’t your neighbours. The problem is you” This was the brother’s response to his various sorrows. Miguel had gone to visit him and told him about everything that was going on in  his building. From Antonio’s point of view, letting the boy into his house had been his first mistake.

“What was I supposed to do? The husband’s awat, their family lives in Maturin, and she was standing ther, crying, totally overwheklmed.”

As Miguel lets a neighbour in his house afterthe husnband has left his brother thinks he is making a mistake ?

Tyszka has a sideline like a lot of Latin American writers have as a soap writer and this is like that a slice of everyday life capturing the effects of the end of Chavez when he was dying of characters using a group of characters connected by family or location. Middle class but all struggling Miguel walking a fine line between his family members but at a point knowing things are worse than they are being told. Fredy a journalist given a chance and his son chatting with a fellow youngster in the building a new face of Venezuela in the chat rooms. A powerful work on everyday lives of those caught up in the last days showing how entwined we all are.  As the death of the great leader looms on the horizon. Like a soap opera, it mixes News and Melodrama and some outrages bits. Hae you read Tyszka?

 

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Scar by Sara Mesa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scar by Sara Mesa

Spanish fiction

Original title  – Cicatriz

Translator – Adriana Nodal-Tarafa

Source – personal copy

I am back on with Spanish Lit month but also another for Women in translation month. Here I have one that ticks both boxes a Spanish novel from the writer Sara Mesa. The translator chooses to translate this book after reading a copy at a Dalkey archive applied for a literary translator program when she was given this book to read and after reading it new she wanted to Translate it.  She has written a number of novels they all seem to have similar themes to this of male to female relationships and the power within them. She has been a finalist for the Heralde prize in the past and has lived in Sevilla since childhood.

They discuss their childhoods ofteb. They hadsimilar experiences. They get excited telling about their memories, as if they were trading cards. Public school. Working class neighbourhood. Pelikan pencil cases, seasame street, blue sports jackets with white stripes, La piara ham pate for afternoon snack. Sonia scans a childhood picture for him, hoping to get one from him in exchange where she can make out his current features.

The two have a lot in common and chat about there childhoods.

Scar is a story of two characters. Sonia, she is an ordinary woman and goes on the internet chatting in a forum about literature. As she tries to escape her boring life as a data processor entering figures in a computer. So she becomes someone else at night. she meets the mysterious Knut Hamsun we never know his real name. The two starts by talking and over time a relationship develops. He starts to try and get her to write better with first packages of books from writers and also about how to write. But over time he starts to try and get Sonia into other positions by sending her lingerie expensive La perla, she thinks he stole them more and more come and he starts to try and get her mind as he sends more and more CDs, lingerie, perfume even then shoes stockings as the gifts pile up and this odd relationship gets strange as she is both drawn to this man and then scared about what he really wants. from her. She in the time of there relationship marries but after time the relationship with Knut begins again.

The amount you are able to read is amazing, she tells him. Knut comments extensively about Proust. He doesn’t stop insisting that she should read him too, but not just part of his work, not just one book, his entire oeuvre. He suggests that they study him together, that they analyze his work in depth. I would like nothing more in this world than thatr he sayshe claims to have read Buddenbrooks in five days, the brothers Karamzov in four. In another email he copies marge segments of Against the grain and asks her what she thinks of des Essintes’s views.

They both love books and she admires how well read he is

Sara is another of the talented writers to have emerged from Spain in recent years. This is a novel that brings to life a corner of the modern world that hasn’t been touched in literature much that of the online relationships the world has moved on so much in the last twenty year a fair few relationships start online now. This work also shows the dangers of that world. in Sonia and Knut we see a power relationship as Knut lavishes gifts on Sonia a woman caught in a boring world trying to get out of it is a perfect catch for this man. This is a man obsessed with Sonia and also he really wants to model her by sending her the lingerie although she h=never feels right in it and often it never fits her probably. It touches those dark corners of the human world as this is a story of codependents as much a Knut is a dark figure in this book Sonia also wants Knut. This is a wonderful insight into a new world of online forums and what happens when people meet and fall in love or in a co-dependency! Have you read this book or any of the Dalkey Spanish lit series?

And the wind sees all by Guðmundur Andri Thorsson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the wind sees all by  Guðmundur Andri Thorsson

Icelandic fiction

Original title – Valeyrarvalsinn

Translators – Bjorg Arnadottir and Andrew Cauthery

Source – personal copy

We were discussing on Twitter the other night that it has been ten years of Peirene Press and there would be thirty books and I went back and I have missed a number of them over the last few years so I decided to order three I hadn’t read and this was the first to arrive. Guðmundur Andri Thorsson has written ten books including four novels and this was the first to be translated to English. It was up for the Nordic lit prize but lost out to Kim Leine book which I reviewed a while ago here . The books original title means The Waltz of Valeyri the small village the book is set. Knowing this I was reminded of the dance to the music of time the Powell sequence of novels that took its title from a painting by Poussin that features time and people dancing around it well this is a village dancing around time. 

 The old couple sit at the kitchen table munching custard creams. Skipper Cudjon is thinking about the great northern diver he was in the valley at Lake Valeyri yesterday evening, about its majestic glide along the lake and its long dive for fish, as if careless of time, as if free. Sveinsina is somewhere in the middle of Briggi’s guitar solo at that gig on Austurbaejarbio, the solo which, later that night, he said had been for her alone

The Captain remembers the diver he saw but also another event

This takes place in just two mins and captures the thoughts and stories of a small Icelandic fishing village that has at its heart that the beautiful choirmistress of choir Kata she is cycling through the town in her new blue polka dot dress in the last practice before the tonight’s highly anticipated show. What follows is a series of Vignettes as each character sees Kata on that bicycle and we get glimpses into their lives A priest with money troubles from Gambling online and has lost touch with those around him. The brother and sister that don’t speak he is wandering trying to remember what caused the break up between them as he does. A sea captain remembers a great Northern diver that he saw on the water such a graceful bird leads him to a sad event in his life. The Choirmistress own past is clouded and she is an incomer but her past isn’t fully known. An idealistic poet that has set his bar and ideals to high. The little touches get you the music folks are listening to by the likes of  Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, he Finnish composer Avro Part and Dixieland music

He lifts his pen expectantly, takes a sip of cold coffee, puts his mug back down and looks up, stroking his beard, From the window he sees Kata choir gliding past on her bike, her forehead rinkled in concentration, wearing a white dress with blue polka dots. He smiles and scribbles something in the notebook lying next to the white sheet of papoer. He writes “sea”, “shore”,”grass”

The poem has fluttered away into tomorrow

I loved this line about the poem fluttering away

Joyce first tried a day in Ulysses and an hour in Finnigans wake. But here we have just two mins and a sort of Camera Obscura that has come to life as we see the bike go through the heart of the town we see all Human nature from Loss, envy, gambling, despair this is village warts and all. Of course, many villages have been written about from the classic Sherwood Ohio which uses the same vignette style of writing through Thomas Under milkwood this isn’t as dark as that book for me but the feeling is the same it seems to capture a world in Amber just that two mins and what everyone is thinking fro the present to the past the loss of sons, falling outs and falling into gambling addiction. The future Kata and her choir’s forthcoming performance that is most eagerly wondered about. If you ever wished the google street view would come to life this is it we capture the spirit of a village through those that live there and it shows that there is a story in everyone background. I so pleased we discussed the amount we had read it gave me a chance to find this gem of a book. Have you read it ?

 

Doppelganger by Daša Drndić

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Doppelganger by Daša Drndić

Croatian fiction

Original title – Doppelgänger

Translators Susan Curtis and Celia Hawkesworth

Source – Personal copy

I held back on reviewing this to this month as it seemed fitting I had two books by the Late Dasa unreviewed and I decide to do this one first and Women in translation month seemed the perfect time for a female writer that was one of the strongest voices of Balkan writing in recent years. Dasa studied English literature and then got a master in Theatre. She then worked as a Tv Editor,  a professor of English. Her books had been shortlisted for the IFFP and the EBRD prize in recent years. In the recent books, there is an undercurrent of a warning of Europe slipping into a new Right-wing Nationalistic era. I met her once and spent a good hour talking about books Europe and Lit. She sadly passed away last year I do hope they retroactively give her the Nobel prize anyway. The Publisher of this told me this was one of her favorite works.

Artur Biodi(C), born in Labin, 1921. Extramartial son of Martistella Biondi(C) (deceased) and Carlos Theresin Rankov (deceased). The father of Artur Biondi(C),Carlos Teresin Rankov (deceased) was born in 1900 on the shores of the river Tanaro, as the extramartial son of Teresa Borsalino, co-owner of a hat factory in Alessandria, and the serbian Military officer of the Austro-Hungarian army under Ranko Matic (deceased)

Artur police dossier and it is strange he is a son born of a son brom out of wedlock as well. Then there is the hat connection!

Doppelganger is two novellas I have chosen to talk about the first short novella called Artur and Isabella as it is a real rollercoaster ride of a story the tale of two lonely widowers who know each other but take it further oneNew Years eve with a shocking knock-on effect. It shows how when someone loses their life partner there is a void in their lives that is never refilled the two Isabelle has been trying to become a Croat citizen on three occasions. The final one which happened seven years before. She moved there following her husband’s death some fifteen years before. Then we have Artur a retired Yugoslavian Naval officer known for his extensive collection of hats. The two then spend the new years eve together the story has as a side police dossier pieces on the both but also on the people around them there is a terrible outcome from this evening. The second story sees another lonely figure a man who visits the zoo every day. Talks to himself but the later story has echos of the first story. Both are visions into what makes us human.

Isabelle always unwraps her chocolate balls with care so that she can save the silver paper. Over the year she collects the foil wrappersin a book beside her bed because she eats most of the chocolate balls in bed. When she finshes the book, she will put the wrappers into anothert one. At the moment she is reading an exciting book . The book is called “This way for the gas , Ladies and gentlemen” she puts Karl marx foil wrappers in it. By the ehd of the year, she will have collected a lot oif wrappers for the christmas treem more for the branches on the walls

Isabelle and her chocolate balls which she is an expert on

I often wonder if I am too positive about books well I am on the whole especially as I am now choice more that I read I have brought myself. If you ever met Dasa the effect she would have on you is the same as she had on me as someone that just seemed to have that finger on the pulse of what makes us human but also what is going on in the wider world, Here in the first stories we see the loneliness of the old age. We see the two talk about old age losing control of their bodies wearing Adult diapers and such. Then when they meet they get into a sex scene which reminds me somewhat of the scene in Dennis potters singing detective where the main character is trying to forget the young nurse is touching his body Isabelle is seen going through a list of things as she performs a sexual act on Artur.In these days when the world is so fast The older people sometimes get left behind. But also the past of Yugoslavia where everyone was watched by someone in the Police dossiers on them from their lives to Artur Hatmaker. A tragic view of lives touched with a dark humour at times from the chocolates those Mozart Balls!!. Have you read Dasa ?

 

A nail, A rose by Madeleine Bourdouxhe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A nail, A rose by Madeleine Bourdouxhe

Belgian fiction

Original title – Sept Nouvelles

Translator – Faith Evans

Source – review copy

I featured a picture of this for my women in translation covers piece earlier in the week. I had read this a while ago as it came out in May but felt it was a great choice for women in translation month as it shows what Pushkin do so well and that is rediscovered writers that have disappeared here we have the Belgian writer Madeliene Bourdouxhe although she moved with her family at a young age to Paris  during world war one returning to Brussels to attend university, She married a maths teacher  and began writing during the war she was in the resistance . After the war, she frequently went to Paris meeting writers like Simone de Beauvoir and Raymond Queneau. This collection was published firstly in the late eighties and it great it is back in print in a Pushkin edition.

Come on, “he said, “get some change..”

She went in and returned with the notes. She watched Nicholas as he hung the hose back on the petrol pump and handed over the change; she watched the cas as it pulled out , re-entered the right lane, and disappeared in the direction of Masions-Alfort. At the garage over the way anpther car pulled in. The women who worked there was tall, gaunt and older that Anna, and she wore an old fashion chignon on the crown of her head , fastened not with hairpin but with four or five criss-crossing nails, which formed a rosette around the chignon, a real curiosity

I loved anna description of the woman over the road her hair sounds so unusual and destinctive with its nails holding it in place!!

This is a collection of stories all but one is told from a female point of view. The woman, on the whole, seem to maybe be a general vision of women in the pre and war years this book came out in 1944 the last story touches on this story Sous le point Mirabeau follows a Belgian woman, just become a mother and with many others trying to get into France. I liked another story Blanche it starts with a husband asking if his shirt is ironed but his wife is wistful dreamy Blanche doesn’t see her life as a housewife so doesn’t iron her short this is a woman that maybe is one the edge at one point when she heads into the woods with her son its dark he says but we are looking for squirrels to reassure him this scene makes you wonder what was going to happen . In other stories, we have one  Rene is the flip of the other stories a man looking at ordinary women lives this is a subtle collection of ordinary lives brought to life from Heartbreak to Trauma.

Blanche hurried along the path, holding her hand. Some drops of rain were still falling but the heat of the day lingering and the air was warm.

“Shall we walk through the wooods? Blanche said.

“Its all black in therem I’de be frightened” said Jean-Louis

“You mustn’t be afraid of the wood. We might see some squirrels in there …”

“Squirrels? All right then,” Said Jean-Louis

Blanche takes her son into the dark woods one night …

I held this back as it was so perfect for this month from the great cover art of a factory girl of the time a strong woman, an ordinary woman which is what Bourdouxhe captures so well in this book. she captures the voice and internal feeling of the women she writes about okay they are all very similar in character but they also show maybe the changing thoughts of the writer at the time this collection came out in 1944 a time when the writer her self had seen action in the resistance but women’s roles  in the home and workplace had changed during those war years. I feel this is an undercurrent in these characters from Blanche feeling unlike a housewife to trying to get to France in a crowd. There is a number of other books that the translator had translated inn the eighties lets hope they also get reissued. Have you read her books?

 

The Iliac Crest by Cristina Rivera Garza

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Iliac Crest by Cristina Rivera Garza

Mexican fiction

Original title – La cresta de Ilión

Translator – Sarah Booker

Source – personal copy

Well, another crossover for women in translation and Spanish lit month and another great Mexican writer. Cristina Rivera Garza is a well-known writer and professor, she grew up near the US border in Mexico. She has won many of the lit prizes in Mexico. Garza style has been described by her as “disturbing pleasure ” She aims to darken things and make the reader suspicious. Believing that there is too much light and clarity in the world. She uses concepts such as sex and identity this is very much the case here. Another great novel from Mexico.

Three days after her arrival, Amparo had already devolped a routine that we shared and respected equally. So placid, so natrual, that anyone not familar with us might have belived we werehappily married. At first glance, no one would have suspected that I was just playing along, that my fear hadn’t subsided in the least quite the opposite: it kept growing.

Amparo would wake up early, batrhe and, with her hair still wet, go downstairs to the kitchen to make coffee for me and tea for the betrayed.

The two settle in the mans house and make it like a home before they start twisting the screw on the narrator.

this is a strange book an unnamed narrator is visited on a dark night by two women. He is a doctor in a small coastal town between the north and the south. The women seem to know the narrator they invite themselves into the house. The two of them seem to know some dark secret about the narrator He tries to defend himself from their constant question and accusations of who he was before. The women one a Mexican woman called Amparo Davila a writer the other another unnamed character is just called the betrayed. The two start talking in a gibberish to one another as they start to unsettle the narrator meanwhile he is caught by the hip of one of the women which he sees as he tries to remember what it is called well that is the Iliac crest of the title and part of the pelvis which is part of this gothic tale about peoples gender identity.

Amaparo pproached me sureptitiously one night. She brought a bottle of anisette and, after serving the liquor in two small glasses, reclined in front of the lit fireplace. We chatted idly until, pausing, she looked up at me.

“You know?” she said offhandedlu. “I kniow your secret”

As had become cusomary in our few conversations, her comment made me let out a short burst of laughtter. I laughed not only because the woman claimed to know my secret but because she shockingly assumed there was only one.

I loved the last poart of this about his many secrets and them thing he has this one large one !!

Another one of those great short novels that have come from Mexico in recent years this also features a real person well it isn’t here in the end by Amparo Davila is an actual writer her first translation came out in English last year. She writes a lot about gender and there is a lot in this book about that the IIliac crest for example is part of the pelvis and high and more evident in women then in her intro to this book The translator tells us that the use of gender is hard to translate the narrator refers to themselves as a male but when the two women question them it is as thou they are a female. as they play out positions the betrayed the person from Amparo and the narrator who isn’t what we think he or she, their position is questioned. Like a lot of Mexican fiction, this has levels to the narrative and is mainly about females roles within Mexico. As for the simple story two women turning up and questioning someone well for me I was reminded of the Pinter play The birthday party which sees two men turn up and question a man. A great translation from Sarah booker as she says we lose something as we have no gender in English.

The fish child by Lucia Puenzo

 

The Fish Child

The fish child by Lucia Puenzo

Argentinean fiction

Original title – El niño pez

Translator – David William foster

Source – personal copy

A sort intertwined review her as Lucia Puenzo is a film director, screenwriter and a novelist this is debut novel. Which she filmed at a later date. She studied Literature and then film studies. She is the daughter of Luis Puenzo another well known Argentinean filmmaker. I ordered this when the film appeared on Mubi a streaming service I use that has a film on it for thirty days so I was pleased when the book arrived just before the film of this book was due to leave so I got to watch both. The film shares a similar none linear narrative but the book is told from Lalas dog’s point of view.

Guayi no longer took her days off. She would stay at home on sundays. But dressed in lala’s clothes. They were inseparable in recent months. Lala missed school more and more and Guayi cleaned the house less and less. They had begun to look alike, in black and white

The two are drawn closer over time.

The book opens when one of the two main characters Guayi or as she is really known Allin is the Paraguayan she was fifteen when events at home meant she had to leave and find this job working for a Judge and his wife. She finds a puppy and gives the puppy to LaLa the younger daughter of the family that is only a couple of years younger than Guayi the puppy nervous and small is called Serafin by the young girl and we see the dog grow as the family grows in the film the dog is there but it isn’t his perspective on the world whereas the book shows he observing the growing relationship between these two young women over a number of years as the two teenagers become young lovers and women. But the father has taken to the maid as well. Meaning they want to leave the family home. As they grow close they plan to leave and return to Paraguay this is where the title of the book comes from and a myth of a small boy that draws people under the water with him in a local lake this is something in her past that means more than that. Lala eventually early in the book but later in the timeline goes to Guayi hometown finds her father and what happened in the past. In the meantime, The Judge had killed himself and the Maid Guayi is chief suspect as it is discovered that she sold a painting that she and Lala were going to use to escape. They steal bits and bobs from Lala family but they also stumble when they sell the painting into a trafficker of girls through a dog trainer they meet. Will they ever get together? Lala race back to find where Guayi is being held and discover what she can do to help?

The force turned the canoe over and suddenly the lake was larger than the world. The wind was impellin along both clouds and waves, turning my barking intio bubbles. The lighthouse disappeared, along the with the shoreline and the house. I opened my mouthand my lungs filled with water. Lala continued to swim toward the bottom, searching for him, until she ranout of breath..

Serafin and Lala on the lake in Paraguay looking at the bottom for the fish boy to come for her.

I maybe did the wrong thing as the film had only a day left to watch it I watched it straight away then read the book so the two young actress and all the characters were those in the film. I often prefer the over way round to read than watch a film. But I enjoyed  seeing the differences when I read the book first the narrator being the dog Serafin then we have a lot more little side piece in the book whereas the film is mainly about Guayi and Lala there relationship is close sexual and remind me of Heavenly creatures film about  although the girls here didn’t kill anyone there is a close tie between the girls in Heavenly creatures. Then there is the Fish child of the title a little bit of Magic realism thrown in a story that mixes Christian religion and older myths together shown in the film when the gate to Allin’s old house has ribbons and saint-like models of the fish boy tied to it.  So this is a great LGBT book also a woman in translation book also one for my Spanish lit month ticking three boxes. Have you read a novel or seen a film that she has made?

Atlantic Hotel by Joao Gilberto Noll

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Atlantic Hotel by Joao Gilberto Noll

Brazilian fiction

Original title – Hotel Atlântico

Translator – Adam Morris

Source – personal copy

Well, it is back to Brazil and a second helping of Joao Gilberto Noll. I so enjoyed the quiet creature I decided to try another and of the two I had this one appealed. Even thou he died a few years ago, he still has a lot of works to be translated into English. He was a guest writer at Kings College in London in 2004 which lead to the other book I have by him called Lord which I will review at a later date the book is set in London partly.

I glanced at the time: eight thirty. It took some effort to get up; my legs hurt. I slipped my blazer on and went to the bathroom, steadying myself on things, feeling a sort of disability- the image of a convalescent getting ready to leave the hospital came to mind.

In the mirror I saw deep circlesunder my eyes, skin all scaly, parched lips. I slid my tongue along an inflamed cavity in one of my teeth, figuring it wasn’t doing me any good to stay here emumerating thesigns of my body’s deterioration.The time to leave has come.

After his first night in the hotel. This remind me a lot of DOA the way he said he was falling apart.

This is a very different book from Quiet creature was. The book opens with a narrator who arrives at a hotel. The Atlantic hotel and has a room where a murder had occurred, he had just flown in he said but has very little luggage and asks what happened in the room but then he is a taxi and the narrative becomes like the road trip from hell, as we follow him from dark seedy motes to motel as he starts to meet people like Susan on a Bus but she is a troubled soul like a narrator as she takes fatal overdose this increases the sense of death and the world drawing in around our unnamed narrator. later he seeks refuge at a church but who is the narrator as the man says various jobs he has done and various things he has done to the people he meets along the way. As he is accused of something who is this man what has drawn him to be the way he is on the run through Brazil but always being close to death as he does almost as though he has a cloak of darkness that tinges all that is around him.

I was drinking coffee with milk and eating a thick slice of butter bread, in Father Anselomo’s old frock. Antonio was sitting in the same chair I’d found him when I arrived at the house. Only hehad bow turned the chair in my direction.

He told me he lived in Rome for four years.There he’d known hunger , absolute misery. He’d wandered the streets in rags. Eaten whatever he was given Sometimes he sat in the doorstep of a fancy restaurant until a cop gave hium the bootor a waiter brought him something to eat- the ramains of the customers meal into a cardboard carton.

Everyone he meets have dark stories to tell him in this road trip around Brazil.

I felt this was more Lynchian than his last book the feeling of our narrator falling down a dark hole as he like the main character in Mullholland drive seems to be drawn into a dark seedy world that he isn’t quite sure what he is doing. There is as I said that sense of disjointedness that is in his works I was reminded of Toby Jones character in Berberian sound studio where he is drawn into the world around him without seeing it happen and the darkness of the film he was doing the sound for. The other film I was reminded of was a classic film noir that was made twice and that is DOA the man on the run here is obviously trying to escape something dark from his life it says early on that he aged forty years overnight at the first night at the hotel. Like the film his world becomes stranger as the days move on like in the film, his world draws in around him and his body starts to fall apart. Have you read this book at all ?

The Hedge by Miguel Delibes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Hedge by Miguel Delibes

Spanish fiction

Original title – Parabola del Naufrago

Translator – Frances M. Lopez-Morillas

Source – personal copy

I again add an older writer and her it is one of the stars of post-war Spanish writing one of the Generation of 36 writers Miguel Delibes sat on Chair E of the Spanish Academy from 1975. He wrote about mainly city dwellers that had lost touch with the natural world. He was also considered one of the leading Catholic writers of the second half of the 20th century like Greene and Boll. He won most of the major Spanish lit prizes. His books in English seem to be out of print.

He (Jacinto) appears to be rather meticulous man and he yearns for personal security. A few months ago he went through a very uneasy peroid when he observed the progress made by the adding machines in the office, thinking that the expert calligraphers were a dying breed, but Don Abdon, who is a father to everyone, reassured him with his end-of-the-year speech, when he said that the most perfect electronic brain wasn’t worthy to untie the shoes of a good solid craftsman. That was what Don Abdon said, Don Abdon who is a father to evryone, and this calmed Jacinto, who often, in view of the conquests of technology, belives that he is dispensible and lives of charity.

The quiet Jacinto and his changing workplace as machines take over.

The book follows a caligrapher Jacinto working in an office for the overpowering as he is described Don Abdon he runs the factory but also the town they live in and he is Jacinto’s boss. Jacinto is a loner a sort of everyman. But he is also worried that his job is about to be automated. The boss is described as” the father of them and the mother of the fathers” It is when he has a relatively series of zeros to copy out this meek man finally breaks it is shown when the language we see has the punctation spelled out so it is comma this and full stop that almost showing his mind breaking. He is sent to the town’s country retreat in this remote cabin but far from getting away he is given a bag of seeds to plant and then wakes up the next day to find the cabin he is in cover and surround by one almighty hedge and one of his colleagues is now dog he tries to tunnel burn and otherwise get past the hedge whilst himself seeing his body grow fluffy hair.

Sometimes Jacinto loses his footing , the bend or fork of the hedge fails him and he is again submerged in that vegtable sea and observes that he is asphyxiating and  moves his arms and groans until he comes to the surface again and then he sighs deeply, but as night falls , and the yellow petals closes over the stamens and the enervating odor of the flowers began to spread, Jacinto thinks the end has come , but he tries no to give in he rejects the intoxicating prefume and yells “Damm You!”

The hedge is all around and is hold Jacinto with inside it as he tries to escape it !

This is a strange book Delibes was known for his playful use of language it is shown here in part when we see the punctation seep on to the page out of the reader or Jacintos mind as we see him breaking before he moves to the county and faces a struggle with nature and maybe finally becomes part of nature. It is easy to compare this to Orwell it tells me that on the back of the book itself written in the later years of the Franco regime it is obviously a sideways punch at Franco with the Don Abdin character obviously a veiled Franco esque character . For me I was reminded of the book restraint of beast in the later part of the books as we see the character Jacinto getting trapped in the hedge was like the characters in the book restraint of beast that see themselves fencing themselves in separate from the world.It also showed Delibes love of nature and how he felt people were losing touch with the world around them which it seems was a theme in a lot of his books. Have you read any books by Miguel Delibes ?

 

The posthumous memoirs of Bras Cubas by Joaquim Maria Machado De Assis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The posthumous memoirs of Bras Cubas by Joaquim Maria Machado De Assis

Brazilian fiction

Original title – Memorias Posthumas de Braz Cubas

Translator – Gregory Rabassa

Source – personal copy

I always like adding depth to the blog some older writers from around the world.So here I review the second book on the blog from the Brazilain writer Machado De Assis He managed a successful career as a Bureaucrat as well as become a successful writer first with poetry then a series of novels it was when this book came out that he became a really well known in Lit circles in Brazil. The book followed the death of a friend that left him melancholic and thinking about death.

For some time I debated over whether I should start these memoirs at the beginning or at the end, that is, whether I shuld put my birth of my death in first place. Since common usage would call for beginning with birth, two considerations led me to adopt a different method: the first is that i am not exactly a write who is dead but a dead man who is a writer, for whom the grave was a second cradle, the second is that the writing be more distinctive and novel in that way. Moses, who also wrote about his death,didn’t place it at the opening but at the close: a radical differecne between this book and the Pentateuch.

The opening lines explain the choice of style for the book

 

This is a strange book as it is the memoirs of a dead man that he wrote after he died he tells us this early on in the book. As we follow Bra Cubas life as he tells us in a quirky style of short chapters that vignettes of his life from his childhood onwards. but he was a spoilt rich child maybe this explains why his life is never quite right. He also abused the slaves his family had at the time. He then goes on to study law. His wilder years before he settles   Sleeping and falling in love with a prostitute that all the boys loved at the time. He also deals with his mother’s death and ends up in Rio. This is where he starts to meet Virgilia a woman that is the love of his life they never quite get it there she marries someone else he decides to become involved in politics. But he is a man that always sees his world as half empty and his relationships and life all reflect this so when he re-meets Virgilia and they see each other things still don’t go his way. His political career grows but he then is out of favor and starts a pape as a  member of the opposition.

Virgilia ? But, then, was it the same lady who some year later ….? The very same. It was precisely the lady who was to be present during my last days in 1869 and who before, long before, had played a ample part in my most intimate sensations. At that time she was only fifteen or sixteen years old. She was possibly the most daring creatureof our race and, certainly, the most wilful.I shan’t say that she was already first in beauty, ahead of the other girls of the time, because this isn’t a novel, where the author gilds reality and close his eyes to feckles and pimles.

I liove this description of the love of his life .

This is an amazing book for the time it mixes the absurd style of a book like Lawrence Sterne’s Tristam Shandy another fictional biography. De Assis said he was influenced by this book and also the French masterpiece journey around my room by Zavier De Maistre which is another unusual and unique book in style.  But he also mixes realist lit of the day from the likes of Zola and Dickens which showed the world warts and all. We are given this view of the world  Bra Cubas gives of Brazil he grew up in. It captures the wide range of people in Brazil from those nameless slaves to Bra Cubas and those he sees go above him in his life in the upper reaches of Brazilian life. Bra Cubas is  a man that is a normal man, not a hero never really successful in fact in a lot of ways he is a man that things never quite pan out failed romances the sense that he is maybe marked for his younger days in later life. I liked this much more than the other book by De Assis I read a few years ago I see in this how well read he was it is said he read in five languages and you can see what an influence he was for the Latin American writers that followed him. Borges for example in the short choppy chapters that could each be like the small gems  of short stories  that Borges did so well. Have you read De Assis ?

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