The Desert and Its seed by Jorge Barón Biza

The Desert and Its Seed by  Jorge Barón Biza

Argentinian fiction

Original title – El desierto y su semilla

Translator – Camilo Ramirez

Source – personal copy

This is a modern classic from Argentina the late writer used his own family life as the bases of the story. His own father Raul Baron Biza a writer and Politician that was in a middle of a divorce with his mother when he threw acid over his mother this is the bases of the story which is told from Jorge’s point of view. He worked as a journalist and in various publishing houses. He translated Proust. His life was touched by tragedy his mother they had to flee to Uruguay as they opposed the Peron regime . His fathe mother sister and ultimately Jorge himself all commited suicide.

Eligia’s naively sensual face began to part with its contours and colours. beneath the original features, a new substance was emerging: not a sexless face, as Aron would have wanted, but a new reality beyond the the necessary resemblance of a face. Another genesis had begun to happen – a sytem of unkown laws

Just after the inital attack her face is meling just before one of the lawyers rush her to the hospital.

The names have been changed Aron is meeting his wife in 1964 as they try to reach an agreement over the divorce. Eligia arrives and Aron throws acid in her face this is where the book opens and Mario her son arrives at the ER to see the horror that be fell his mother at the hands of his own father we arre told tha tAron ran off but later shot himself as he wouldn’t have coped with being imprisioned. The novel folows the mother and somn around the world as they seek a way to mend the mother face painful operations the pain is told early on as his mother is restrained by her wrists to stop her doing more damagfe to her face this is told as we also see there homeland of Argentina falling apart as it stumbles from one disaster to the next. His mother fate at one point he looks at one of those great Arcimboldi the artist that made his pictures of objects his most famous works had veg bu this one was made up of meat and fish. A feeling of his mother face being a patchwork of various surguries and attempts to sort it out.This book shows the horro but also the detacted nature of there relationship he cares for her but there is a lack of empathy and pathos at times he cares for the body of his mother but her soul maybe not so much.

My lace at the table faced animage from the sixteenth century that I could never imagined on my own. The frame had a metal plague that read “The Jurist” Under a cloak with a fur collar was an embellished vest with embroidedflowers and a thick golden chain – a sign that the subject was on the emperors good side – but the coin on the chain didn’t have an inscription or any figure. Underneath the waist coat, where one would expect to see the body of the subject covered by a shirt three thick volummes were visible one over the other, dry and soporfic, I imagine. The ruff was made of paper sheets, and a black cap covered the head.

All these elements, represented very natrually, framed the strangest face I have ever seen in my life.It was composed of plucked chickens arranged in such a way that a wing formed the eyebrows ridge, a thigh made up the cheek, and a small chick passed for a massive nose. A fishappeared fold onto itself, so thats its mouth was also the mouth of the subject, while its tail simulated a beard.

A face made of various parts is maybe a remind of his mother face.

Well this is a classic a slow burn story of a mothjer and son but also the aftermath off facing your own fathers actions this is his own story like they say in a lot of dramas only the names have been changed. Biza was an art critic hence the Arcimboldi and a few othe rpainting mention I alway thought of the vicious image of Bacon’s faces when I imagined his mother. This is a tragic story as we know that everyone in this book took there own life the main characters from Aron shooting himself then a decade or so later his own mother took her life as she couldn’t cope withthe horror that was her life and then his own sister and laterly Jorge only a few years after he had finished this book. How do you find words to capture this he does the nature of surgery on his mother but also the changing up and downs of his homeland at the time are  caught. A gem have you read this book ?

 

Dark Constellations by Pola Oloixarac

Dark Constellations by Pola Oloixarac

Argentinian fiction

Original title – Las constelaciones oscuras

Translator – Roy Kesey

Source – personal copy

I have another from the Grangta best Spanish writer list of a few years ago. This list has thrown up so many great writers over the last few years. Pola Oloixarac is an Argentinian writer she studied Philosophy and has written a number of pieces for various publications including New York times. She has written three novels this is her second the first novel has also been translated into English. She’s a founding editor of The Buenos Aires Review bilingual journal featuring contemporary literature in the Americas

On the final day of 1882, a group of explorers reached the sea that surrounds the crater of Famara, the volcanic mass that rises up from the archipelago of Juba. Like a fortress on the water , the crater’s aerial line shrouded the bay in grandeur. The travelers made land on a beach of black sqand crored by the tails of lizards, and began their climb along a mossy trail through a series of gorges that wound their way through the sinous formations of dark lava. Anchored in the bay,  their ship looked like an old dinosaur, its viscera extracted by parasites who lowered the cages, bronze instruments, wooden traps, and coils of rope into the sand amidst the boulders onshore

The opening as the head to discover new plants.

Dark Constellations is a work that involves three stories the first is a plant biologist on the canary islands discovering new plants. Then in the 1980s, we follow Cassio a hacker at the dawn of the internet we follow him from a kid entranced by computers and girls to a brilliant scholar and then a wonderful hacker.  Then in the near future, we have a group of scientists trying to discover a way of tracking people through there individual DNA. The latter two stories are interlinked as Max in the near future recruits Cassio he was a brilliant hacker in his day. As they use people’s biometric data to project their life and what will happen to them. Meanwhile, in 1882 the scientist Niklas Bruun has discovered a plant that he feels lets him connect with other species. Then in the near future, Max has made Cassio work on this algorithm as it is a new species as Max says. This is a mix of cyberpunk gen X and nods to the great explorers of the victorian age. A trio of tales that are wound together to a scary look at the future.

Cassio broke off all relationships with women, starting with the ones in his house. His natural satellites, Sonia and Yolanda, mother and maid, whom he perceived as inauthentic, united to form an incomprehensibly sadisitc caste. The are of his life coincidedwith the rise of women, considered a “Minority” , toward equal civil rights, but his mental life moved in the opposite direction, Soon his room began to stink of pizza and Coca Cola, sources of essential nutrients for growing young programmers. On the TV, ads showed blue liquids poured onto vaginal products”with wings” which didn’t help in the slightest. Was this what they had inside ?

Cassio struggle with his realtionships with Females whenhe was younger and became radical at times.

This is a clever look at the near future were Tech companies maybe have to much power the thought of DNA and over biometric being used to track us even lay the course of our lives. This is a storyline is one I have seen taken to its climax in the film Minority Report a Philp K dicks story there is a fell here she is a fan of his I have read a couple of his books years ago. From Cassio a rebel hacker his life is a classic blueprint of a lot of Tech giants from a scholar and backyard tech person. Is similar to the likes of Gates and Jobs but here it is set in Argentina. |cassio is also a classic Gen X character a slacker but then like so many gen x he gets caught up in the real world. This is a highly original book I had brought both her books as I had seen her as a writer that challenges the boundaries. Have you read this book?

Things we lost in the fire by Marianna Enriquez

Things we lost in the fire by Marianna Enriquez

Argentinean fiction

Original title – Las cosas que perdimos en el fuego

Translator – Megan McDowell

Source – personal copy

I’m reviewing today another book that tick both Spanish lit month and Women in translation month with yet another talent from Argentina. Marianna Enriquez studied Journalism and social communication, then she took a job as a journalist becoming deputy editor of arts and culture of the newspaper Pagina, She has published four novels and two collections of short stories this is her first work to be translated into English and given the content you can see a journalist eye behind this scary tales as they seem to connect to the dark past of the country.

The dirty kid and his mother sleep on three matteresses so worn out that, piled up , they’re the same hieght as a normal bed. The morther keeps what little clothing she has in several black carbage bags, and she has a backpack full of other things, I couldn’t say what they are. She doesn’t move from the corner, she stays there and begs for money in a gloomy monotonous voice. I don’t like the mother. Not because she’s irresponsible, or because she smoke crack and the ash burns her pregnant belly, or because I never once once saw her treat her son , the dirty kid, with kindness

The dirty Kid the opening story was he there ever or just a ghost touching people to remind them

There are twelve stories in this collection they cover things from kids pulling fingernails out, ghosts, dirty child beggars, and father disappearing. Opening with the dirty kid a woman living meets the dirty kid a beggar at the underground shaking hands and leaving his mark on people but was he really there as there is no sign of him when they come back with the police but there is a dead murder child that fits his descriptions.  There is a burnt beggar which appears in the title story. My favorite from the collection was the Inn a family go to meet the father who is working as a guide for the Inn. But when the guide he tells some tourists about the dark past of the Inn more than he should have done. Which was back in the day a police station one of those used for the dark activities that happened under the Junta. Then we have Adela house were they have three kids trying to challenge each other and eventually build up the courage to enter the local ghost house and they disappear.

For years ,Rocio’s father had worked at the inn as a tour guide: he brought the guest to the archaeological park, to the dam, and to the Salamanca cave, where he told them ghost stories about meetings between witches and devils, or about stinking, red eyed goats; furred snakes; and a basilik with blazing eyes. He was a star employee and was treated accordingly; he used Elena’s 4×4 when his truck broke down, he ate free at the restaurant whenever he wanted, he used the pool and football table without paying and around the townspeople said he was Elena’s lover. Rocio denied it saying her Father wouldn’t get mixed up with his boss, bot that snooty woman.

But when he tells people about the inns dark past he dissappears !! like so many before !!

Another wonderful collection of short stories from a female writer from Argentina I have enjoyed Samantha Schweblin collections in recent years if you enjoyed her collections this is one for you. Like Schweblin stories these are tainted with scars from there past and also the poverty that hits hards in the big city like Buenos Aires where there are so many fallen people on the edges this is a glimpse into there everyday horrific but for many the norm. In the dirty kid I was reminded at times of the great play an inspector calls where the fallen woman was seen by all there in the house and has died but was she the same or even real !! I enjoyed this collection it is the dying embers of the past still there in a piece like the “The INN ” which shows even thou it is now an inn the dark past of the police station is just below the surface. Death, murders, and male violence are all things she touches on in this collection. Have you read this collection?

 

A Beautiful young woman by Julián López

A beautiful young woman by Julián López

Argentinean fiction

Original title – Bien Pudiera Sex

Translator – Samuel Rutter

Source personal copy

Back to Spanish lit month and we return to Argentina and another new writer to the blog and another young talent not just as a writer where he has started a writers group Ciclo Carne which has a blog of the previous events. But he is also an Actor and poet as well. This was his debut novel and came out a few years ago. Like many other novelist from Argentina, he has chosen the rough years of the ’70s when people from all over the country and various walks of life disappeared. He has chosen a son who lost his single mother as the centre of this novel.

My mother was a beautiful  young woman. Her skin was pale and opaque. I could almost say it was bluish, and it had a luster that made it unique, of a natrual aristocracy, removed from mundane trivialties. He hair was black of course- I already said she was a beautiful young woman – her hair was straighht but heavy, and she wore it in a way I haven’t seen sin. I’m not talking about her hairstyle; no matter what she did with it her hair fell gracefully and in shape and always seemed tidily cut. I’m talking about the outline of her hair, of the linear sketch of that ocean of flexiable antennae rushing into the sea of her face.

The opening of the book and her hair so described on how it fell aroud her head.

The book starts with the son saying my mother was a beautiful young woman with pale skin this phrase is repeated as we see the son now a man as he tried to piece together his past a single mother devout to her son the little things like a weekly trip out to a posh place to eat he remembers what each of the places they ate served and how much he enjoyed each meal.  the brand of cigarettes his mother smoked and how she smoked those cigarettes through his child’s eyes it is a patchwork of memories he is trying to piece together in the present and he tries to think what happen why did she spend time with a neighbour such a lot was she up to something. The fear of things happen even in school there is a dark cloud floating over the head of those there as bomb threats and not knowing who to trust. So when he what to trace what happen we see the creeping feeling of doom in the world around him. As his mother tries to avoid it the terror of everyday world they live in is there for all to see. The horrors of those years.

on one of those afternoons. Uncle Rodolfo came over. It was a long time since I’d seen him, and he was different : his sideburns were thicker  and he’d let his moustache grow long. He pressed the doorbell  twice  and then after a while knocked on the aprtment door before the opening it with his keys, My uncle usually came over with a pile of Suchard chocolate blocks, one of each flavour, nd another pile of Milkybars , just as bif. I loved chocolate, and I loved how his visits providedme with this drug that made my mother mad and caused her to warn  me abiut toxic effects of devouring all the little blocks of chocolate and the Milkybars in one sitting. The theme of parasites was a serious one; my mother was firm and underwavering when she spoke of it

The brands are familar but his world is so different to mine of the late seventies growing up .

This is a book that has a fragmented style the narrative is that from the young boy as we see the world piece together it is just in snippets his mother doesn’t come to life but is there almost as a ghost in his memories of her and her habit. I have read a few books that also try to deal with this period of History from various angles like on the run from being disappeared to the view of another child and his father in the woefully underrated Patrico pron book my father’s ghost which I reviewed a  few years ago.  It is a dark time and this has a great child’s view of the time and of his mother but its those small details like her smoking that caught me and those days out they had before she didn’t return that day and his world changed. This is another great young writer from Argentina they seem to bring out writers and footballers although we are yet to have a good one of the later at United may I say lol. Have you read this book?

 

Fracture by Andres Neuman

Fracture by Andres Neuman

Argentinean fiction

Original title – Fractura

Translators – Nick Caistor and Lorenza Garcia

Source – review copy

It has been a while since I reviewed a book by Andres Neuman. I met him when his first book made the shortlist of the old IFFP and I was lucky to have got invited to the award and managed a  chat with him which was amazing as he was aware of my blog. Anyway, the years have passed and when I saw this was out I was pleased it was on I managed to get a review copy of. this his latest to be translated to English as for me he is one of those writers that I want to read all he has written over time.

An earthquake fractures the present, shatters perspective, shifts memory plates.

As soon as Watanabe sticks his head out , a torrent of feet engulf him, He takes a deep breath before emerging. He is still has the feeling that the world is swaying slightly, that every object emits the memory of its instability.

Fortunately, everything outside appears more or less in it place he hadn’t been at all sure of this. The force of the jolts made him fear the worst.

I loved this pasaged it captured te earthquke and Yoshies life in one.

So the premise of this book is based around two characters the first is a retired Japanese Executive Yoshie Watanabe. His life has a circle like quality to it there is the beginning where he was one of the few people to survive the bombings at Hiroshima and Nagaski. the story starts when the earthquake in 2011 and the disaster that hit the nuclear plant at Fukushima. This is the bases of the story as he has seen so much and had spent a lot of time abroad in his life trying to escape the first nuclear disaster he had saw and he lost his family along the way. He is contacted by Pinedo an Argentinean journalist wanting to hear about Yoshie’s life as a man that had lived to see both the Nuclear bombs of world war two but the disaster and fractured world of the 2011 Earthquake. Yoshie has been around the world trying to run from his past but in this journey, he had been in a place like Vietnam and Madrid when major events happened around him. He is a man that has enjoyed his life but was damaged to start with so the fractured way he tells his life is how he lived it.

It was around that time that Phil Ochs rook his own life. According to him, he had died a long time ago. Later it was revealed that the FBI kept a five-hundred-page file on his activites. It still considered him a dangerous individual even after hi death.

Just like the country, I began a new life. I met up again with Richard. I think we had always liked each other, but when he was available I was with someone else and vice cersa. We had unfinished buiness. Despite claiming to be a liberated woman, I hadn’t yet learned how to live alone. I avoided the grieving process by eagerly moving on to the next challenge. Which is part of me indentified with Yoshie in this?

Phil ochs the protest singer in the sixties one of those times Yoshie was there to see!!

This is a story of one man’s life that is told in fragments. Using the journalist connects the story to Andre’s homeland which Yoshie had spent time. He is a sort of dumb witness to the 20th century by chance that happened to be at the crucial place at crucial times as he stands on the line between being safe and in danger by Fukushima power plant as he visits the place at the request of the journalist.” Sit by my side, come as close as the air, Share in a memory of gray; Wander in my words, dream about the pictures That I play of changes” is a song by Pil Ochs mentioned in the book due to the CIA keeping a huge file on this protest singer this captures Yoshie a bit as we wander in his words and the world he lived !! A rare story of some from Japan traveling the world. Have you read this ?

Fate by Jorge Consiglio

Fate by Jorge Consiglio

Argentinian fiction

Original title – Tres Monedas

Translators – Carolina Orloff and Fionn Petch

Source – Personal copy

Another gem from Charco Press. I didn’t get his first book from them Southerly. But ordered this the other week as it appealed. Jorge Consiglio has published four novels as well as Poetry and Short stories. He has won a number of prizes in his native Argentina and in Spain as well.  This is the second of his books to be translated into English. There is a great intro about the book by the writer where he mentions a woman that missed a train that crashed in Buenos Aires a crash in which 51 people died. This leads to a thought about Fate what is our fate and then he said whilst writing the book he was also watching and was drawn into the story of the film “The Third man”.

The Colombian disappeared into the subway Karl walked down Corrientes towards Pueyrredon. He was taller than everyone else. He crossed Uruguay Street and stopped short in front of a bookshop. His eye roved over the window display beofre he carrid on. Marina  Kezelman was turning forty in two weeks and he wanted a gift that would suprise her. They had met in a bar in Madrid a decade before. Everything had happened very quickly. Moved by desire and, above all, an extaggerated sense of honesty, they’d made their decisions.

KArl has no idea of what lies ahead here in his first chapter.

The book is two stories intertwined both are about relationships but one is starting that of Amer an up and coming taxidermist he is in a  therapy group where he falls for the younger than him Clara. This relationship is just beginning, But Clara is the one person in the book that is just told through the eyes of another Amer he has a view of her and you hope that the real Clara is near that or will Fate interrupt them ! then we have a relationship at the other end of the spectrum and that is  Karl an Oboist and his meteorologist wife Marina we meet her as she is trying to kill the ants in her house and her Son Simon. Then as the story unfolds in the short chapters that shift from one character to another Marina is having a fling with a work colleague Zarate. This leads to a violent scene that affects Karl’s oboe playing and reminds me of the sudden burst of violence that was in the third man which is the link to the whole story who was the third man when the body appears. Then later on in the book, there is another nod when the son Simon has a love of The Ferris wheel.

Clara also changed position – and subject. She talked about life after her separation. Dammed blessed happiness, she said. Amer put the kettle on again to prepare some more mate. They say beekeeping is good for reducing stress, Clara remarked. Amer felt as if he were watchoing a performance, but this impression didn’t weaken Clara’s words. She was silent for a few seconds.

Amer views clara through his rose tinted glasses.

This is a well-paced novel that follows two relationships but like a train, on the track, the fate of all those involves seems on a track the marriage breaking up, but also the workings of having a failing marriage what to do with Simon this is sort of a rerun for Karl as he has another child back in Germany from an earlier marriage. Then we have Amer a man that works very hard on his animals and maybe he is building a Clara like one of his dead animal the outside of them appears perfect but then he has worked her to be maybe more than she was. The nods to the Third man like Simon liking a Ferris wheel which of course is where there is a great monologue from Harry Lime. This follows four well five if you include Marina’s affair with Zurate over what are two of the hardest things starting a relationship making the right move what card has fate dealt you and then the break up of marriage but when that path is changed what happens when fate intervenes! Have you read either of his books ?

 

The Adventures of China Iron by Gabriela Cabezón Cámara

The Adventures of China Iron by Gabriela Cabezón Cámara

Argentinean  fiction

Original title – Las Aventuras de la China Iron

Translators – Fiona Mackintosh and Iona Macintyre

Source – personal copy

I had chosen on my own list of the books I wanted to see on the Booker longlist the book Loop was one from Charco I had already read, I have so far reviewed a number of books from Charo press over the last few years. including Die my love which made the longlist two years ago and I had reviewed the other book from Gabriela Slum Virgin. So when this made the list I got it straight away. This is her last novel to be published in Spanish and the second to be translated into English. This is a historic reframing of the Classic poem Martin Fierro which is considered an important work of historic Argentinean literature.

It’s difficult to know what you remeber, is it what actually happened? Or is it the story that you’ve told and re-told and polished like a gemstone over the course of years, like something that has lustre but lifeless as a stone? If it weren’t for my dreams, for the recurring nightmare I have where I’m a gruby barefoot girl again, with nothing to my name but a sweet little puppy and a few ragged clothes; if it weren’t for the thump I feel here in my chest, the tightness in my throat on the rare occasions that I go the city and see a skinny , bedraggled little creature hardly there at all; basicaly, if it weren’t for my dreams and the trembling of my body, I wouldn’t know what I’m tell you is true

The opening of the chapter wagon from China black about her journey!

The book takes a woman that could be Martin Fierro’s wife she has a husband that has left her behind like in the epic poem. Her name is China Iron(Fierro is Spanish for Iron). She has been left in a remote encampment so when she sees the chance to leave with an English woman who is heading off in a wagon the Woman Liz is a Scottish woman fierce in spirit. The two women and another rancher Rosario looking for fertile land for his cattle. The trio well the story soon ends up as the two women as we pass through the hinterlands of Argentina. We see the wonderful countryside which is wonderfully described. As the two women draw closer Liz teaches China about the Brtish empire as the head through the pampas and fort. Then they hit Indian territory as the women grow closer the is an awakening of other feelings in them both. Later on in the book to add a twist Martin Henradez the writer of Martin Fierro is added as a character. A book that adds a feminist angle to the Argentinean classic.  It also gives a voice to the LGBT characters at a time when they would haven’t been able to have a voice.

While the land grew into a whole globe in front of me, another world took shape on the wagon. Me, Liz and Estreya were a trinty, within a rectangle strating from the oxen,, one line along the roof, another at the trunk to the rear of the wagon and one running along the ground

“Only here in the pampa could a wagon create a birs eye view, observed Liz and so I found out what prespective was and noted that indedd, the few animal thst stand out on

Later on when the wagon is in the Pampas

I really liked Slum virgin and in parts, I loved this book we have in the shadow panel talked about it and I think a deeper knowledge of Martin Fierro is maybe needed especially later in the book which with its poetic [assages and the introduction of Hermandez mirrors the poem even more. Bolano also mentioned Fierro in his book the secret of evil that had a piece about it and Pynchon also referred to it in Gravity’s rainbow this work is the Argentinean Don Quixote it is at the heart of what makes the males in argentian what they are in a way so when Gabriela takes a side shoot at this work and reframes it around the woman left behind doing something similar to what Geraldine brooks did with her work March which swaps the classic Little women from the female narrative to the male narrative of Mr. March heading homing here Gabriela has done the opposite and taken a female narrative to a great male narrative and also add a twist of a love affair and set all this against the unspoiled background of 1872 Argentina and the wanting of British to come there add many threads to this work but I still felt Had I a deeper reading of the poem I had read the first couple of pages to get a feel of it but felt a closer reading would be required. Have you read this book?

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?

Mouthful of birds by Samanta Schweblin

Mouthful of Birds by Samanta Schweblin

Mouthful of birds by Smanta Schweblin

Argentinean short fiction

Original title – Pájaros en la boca

Translator – Megan McDowell

Source – library copy

When the longlist of the Man Booker came out I was happy I had one book on the list and had read half of it just in case it made the longlist as I had it on loan from the library. This is the second book by Samanta Schweblin to be listed by the man Booker international prize. She has published three collections of short stories and one novel. She was chosen by Granta in 2010 as one of the best 22 Spanish language writers under 35. I enjoyed her previous shortlisted book Fever Dream.

When she reaches the road, Felicity understandsher fate. He has not waited for her, and, as if the pastwere a tangible thing, she thinks she can still see the weak reddish glow of the car’s taillights fading on the horizon. In the flat darkness of the countryside, there is only disappointment, a wedding dress, and a bathroom she shouldn’t have taken so long in

Sitting on a rock beside the door, she picks grains of rice from embroidery on her dress, with nothing to look at but the open fields, the highway, and, besides the highway, a women’s bathroom.

The opening lines of the first story Headlights a woman jilted on her wedding day.

The collection has twenty stories. The opening story Headlights is a tale of a bride jilted left by the side of the road. I was hit by one line in the opening as she picked the rice from the embroidery of her dress so soon after they haven’t even fallen out themselves. Ther woman Felicity then wanders and meets another woman Nene who it seems was expecting her to be there. Then the next story sees a pregnant woman and her partner trying to get free of the pregnancy in some strange ways. Further on a strange tale of a brother visiting his depressed brother Walter a man that everything is a struggle for him to do. The title story is Sara who has decided she will only eat living birds a macabre tale and how it affects her relationships with her father he comes to take her to live with him after hearing about his daughter’s new diet. It ends with a bird being left in Sara’s room in a cardboard box and the door being closed. Then lastly the Merman a woman heads to a dockside bar and finds him sat on a post nearby looking at her the two have a conversation. In which she explains about her ill mother who is slightly insane and how her brother isn’t accepting the fact she somehow ends up kissing the merman.

I’m sitting at the port, waiting for Daniel, when I see the merman look at me from the pier. He’s sitting on the first concrete column, where the water is deeper and the beach hasn’t begun, some fifty yard out. It takes me a minute to relize what I’ seeing, what he is eexactly: such a man from the waist up, such a sea creature from the waist down.He looks to one side, then calmly to the other, and finally his eyes turn back to me.

The woman sat having a coffee has caught the eye of the merman the two then talk .

I enjoyed fever dream but for me, this collection maybe shows her real talent is with short stories there is a real sense of the supernatural and surreal at times in this collection. Schweblin has cleverly left place out of this collection which means it makes the tales more universal in there feeling. She also seems to nod towards the great of short stories a pinch of Poe in the supernatural tales, in the depressing ones I saw a real touch of Raymond Carver for me the opening tale especially had hints of his sorrowful style. even Roald Dahl in the darkness in the tales which is something he was great at.  then if Borges had rewritten Grimms tales for a modern reader he would produce something like this the merman for example where maybe the Mermann is a mirror of what the woman wanted her brother to really be? ok cold to kiss but willing to listen to her. I can see why it made the longlist finishing it off since the list came out it is one of the best short story collections I have read probably since circus Bulgaria

Op Oloop by Juan Filloy

 

Op Oloop by Juan Filloy

Argentinean fiction

Original title – Op Oloop

Translator – Lisa Dillman

Source personnel copy

I was first attracted to the title when it came out a number of years ago so when I saw they had a reduced the price of it a few weeks ago I felt I had to get a copy. The first thing that grabbed me about the writer was his Bio. Juan Filloy was a Hellenist, swimmer boxing referee, and talented Caricaturist. He spoke seven languages. He was a lawyer and Judge in the small town of Rio Cuarto. He made over 8000 palindromes in his life and only used seven letters in his book titles. He died in 200 just before his 106 birthday. There is part of me feels he maybe is a non de plume for a more modern writer this book came out in 1934. He was to inspire both Borges and Cortazar. If he was real he led a life worthy of an epic biography.

The statistician hadn’t noticed. Everything, in fact, was slipping by him unnoticed. He couldn’t focus. His eyes had tuned into the droning, thereby affecting his ability o hear – which ability hoovered awkwardly in the midst of all the urban traffic noise around him. Neuropathy jad attacched the characteristics of various other senses to Op Oloop’s sight. He sat, preplexed the sensorial wires leading to his brain having been switched around, as though he could listen with his sight or touch with his smell

His brain has been wired by his habits in a way.

The book follows a day in the life of Mr. Optimus Oloop. The Op Ollop of the title. This man is a Finnish statistician living in Buenos Aires. We join him on what turns out to be the day of his engagement party. We see how this guy is timed to times his life is ruled by a rigid set of rules and schedule. We first see this when he is writing letters, in fact, is in the middle of a  letter when the clock strikes ten and he must finish where he is with the invitations he has been writing out. Then he has his regular appointment at the Turkish bath.  That he has at the same time each day. Then a taxi ride that needs to reach an exact price that means for a later event in the day he will have the right money. This shows the running of this man’s mind the day is leading to his Engagement party where we meet his group of unusual friends a German submarine captain, a pimp, a white slave trader the had of sanitation and the head of air traffic control. Also at the party is the Finnish Ambassador that gives Oloop a head injury. The other activity that Mr. Oloop loves is visiting the many and varied prostitutes he has met since arriving in the Americas. So yes even thou he is due to get engaged to Fransiska. He is also due to sleep and writes down about the 1000 prostitute he will never forget this day. As the later events in the book are marred by the fact he is running late an event that makes Mr. Op Oloop act differently from he usually would.

I’d be delighted. The first entry coincides with my arrival in America : August 7, 1924. I won’t bother reading the columm headings

BIRDIE, 17 years old. Blonde, cheveux de lin. Chorus girl from Ziegfeld. Unbelievable  tit! my hands still cupped

SOLANGE, 38. Brunette. French Thin forur sisters, all prostitutes, Chiqueteuse. Fifteen dollars!

MERKEL, 26 , Lituanian. Almost Albino. Scar deoma caesarian pudgy , foul smell presliration. repulsive

DELORES , 15 Andalusian. Olive-skinned. The beauty of a murillo, with a dark background …worty of Valdes Leal

His entires on the prostitutes he has slept with the 1000th is the same noght as his engagement part

 

This book is what we have publishers like Dalkey Archive for those odd strange books that need be in English. This book has a bit of Ulysses and Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway as it follows the event of one person over the course of time. It also shows what happens when events take an unexpected turn. I see comparisons with Bloom arguing with the Loyalist in the pub and leaving the pub early leads to events later is similar to the events around Mr. Oloop. For me, the one comparison I would make is to the film Clockwise with John Cleese that showed what happens when Time runs against you and events run out of Control. Like the events that lead Oloop to act out of sorts. It’s strange that he was mention as an influence to Cortazar as this has a feeling of a book that the Oulipo group would write using Oloop Time and other ticks to control the narrative this is a precursor to that movement. A challenging book about one mans obsessive life from his time keeping to his sexual desires and writing down every woman he has slept with.

Have you read Filloy ? is he real?

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