The one before by Juan José Saer


The one before by Juan José Saer

Argentina  fiction

Original title – La Mayor

Translator – Roanne L. Kantor

Source – Review copy

Message In A Bottle”

Just a castaway
An island lost at sea
Another lonely day
With no one here but me
More loneliness
Than any man could bear
Rescue me before I fall into despairI’ll send an SOS to the world
I’ll send an SOS to the world
I hope that someone gets my
I hope that someone gets my
I hope that someone gets my
Message in a bottle
(Message in a bottle)A year has passed since I wrote my note
But I should have known this right from the start
Only hope can keep me together
Love can mend your life
But love can break your heart

I strangely choose A old Police lyric just as one part of arguments is about throwing a bottle with the word message in into the sea .

Now when this a three other books from the american publisher Open letter arrived for review , I was pleased this book in Particular is by a writer that is on my list of writer to read . Juan Jose Saer born to Syrian parents in Santa Fe , he studied philosophy at Litoral University and after that taught history of cinematography , he later got the chance to studied in Paris where he stayed in Exile up to his death ,Exile , Santa Fe and twins are recurring themes in his fiction according to his wiki page .He passed away in 2005 .

I ate the foods of the world ,My hands touched the stones of famous cities and my body , shriveled now but fit and feral , walked the streets more numerous than ripples in a river ,What man have I not known ? what book have I not read ? What might there be in the warehouse od visible and invisible things that could still be sold to me as a novelty ?

A poet remembering the places he has been Memories serve a part , another story is called scent memory

This book is a triptych of stories . Arguments are snatches of stories range from a paragraph to a few pages ,  thin slices of stories that range from little piece of info , arguments about books , being an exile , and memories  that stack up together to make you as the reader both think and feel  . The second and third story are more straight forward Half erased and the one before . I read the intro by the translator  and found that the Character Pigeon Garay is a character that has featured in other works by Saer ,here  he first appears in arguments here ,we see him wrestling with leaving his life in the last story , but his home town is also wrestling with an on coming flood almost as thou it is trying to wipe clean where he was . But also may drown him where he is which isn’t where he wants to be .

“The best thing a message can say ” said Barco , “is just message .So even when everything would seem to indicate we should write HELP! , I’d suggest that we write this is a message , Or just message  short and sweet .

Tomatis considered this a moment and at last agreed , only to encounter another question : who would write the word ?

I choose the police lyric due to these lines , I love the second part who should write the message .

Well this was my first collection by Saer , he is considered one of the main figures in Latin American fiction . For me I see lots of Borges in the first section .These stories  are like tapas like little pieces of fiction and as I say they are  thin slices so like tapas can be mixed together to everyone’s taste  however each reader approaches them taken what you want from them , rather like Borges made the reader work at times to get to the centre of the labyrinth . For me I got out his love of fiction , his feelings of exile (the parts on exile remind me of Goytisolo another great writer on exile ) The second two stories have a more visceral feel to them more of  a modern feel say like Aira and Bolano write and show how Saer was a writer that links the stylish style of Borges with that brutal cutting edge of prose of Bolano  .A great first book from Open letter books , I have two others coming in the next week or two .

Have you read Saer ?

The Adventures of the busts of Eva Peron by Carlos Gamerro



The adventures of the busts of Eva Peron by Carlos Gamerro

Argentinean fiction

Original title – La aventura de los bustos de Eva

Translator Ian Barnett

Source – Review copy

Please, holy Eva, will you feed a hungry child?
For I love you–tell Heaven I’m doing my best
I’m praying for you, even though you’re already blessed
Please, mother Eva, will you feed a hungry child?
For I love you–tell Heaven I’m doing my best
I’m praying for you, even though you’re already blessed

Turn a blind eye, Evita,
Turn a blind eye

I have watched Evita the film once and a book about Eva Peron in a small way maybe need lyrics about her .

Another trip to latin America for spanish lit month ,this time to Argentina . I revisit a writer that I have reviewed twice before on the blog Carlos Gamerro his books Open Secret and The islands  . Like his earlier books this looks again at the past of Argentina and like the other stories it takes a different angle . Carlos Gamerro has written a number of books , he has also translated a number of works into English by writers such as Shakespeare , Auden and Harold Bloom .This is his third book to be translated to English .

Yon know the latest thing they’ve come up with ? They want us to put a bust of Eva Peron in each of our offices .Even in this one !Can you think of anything more absurd ?

Marrone didn’t answer , as he was already mentally totting up the number of busts needed to meet the new demand .eighth floor : the “Vahalla” , the meeting room and two other offices ; seventh floor : nine offices , hallway … The hallways too

The task ma be absurd but Ernesto is up for the task .Like Don Quixote with his absurd tasks .

The book is set in the 1970 the time of the dirty war in Argentina a subject I have touch on before with other books from Argentina I have reviewed on the blog a book like A funny dirty war for example . This as ever being Carlos Gamerro has an angle to it a business magnet has been kidnapped and the people who have kidnapped him have set a task of getting a bust of Eva Peron put in every office of Fausto Tamerlan construction company . Now the man tasked with obtaining the bust is one of Tamerlan underlings Ernesto  Marrone ,here is a man who reads the books on success , books about Don Quixote .In fact to him this is maybe the mission of a knight errand to save the man by getting the maid .This journey takes him through the past to the present from top to bottom of Argentinean society how does a man who is maybe caught in the rat race given the chance to escape and become a hero cope .He has the books but is that all he will need ?

In this very spirit  Cervantes celebrated hero , Don Quixote of La Manche , decides one fine day to turn his back on the meagreness of his material life and the shallowness of the world around him – gutless mediocre folk devoted to traditional ways of doing things , for whom creativity is anathema – and strikes out on the highways in search of adventure .Don Quixote’s gesture encapsulates the adventurous spirit of today’s businessmen

One of the business books that Ernesto likes to read happens to be about Don Quixote using his deeds in the modern business world .


There is many echos to me to the great Cervantes and his classic book Don Quixote  in this book, Ernesto like the Don Quixote  likes to read books now given his books aren’t about knight .But the knights of the modern age those business men . We see what in a way would be a good reality show to prove yourself to your boss with the impossible task .Add to that a splatter of history about the time and about the woman herself Eva Peron , her story gets wound up in the story .So  Ernesto is tasked with his modern crusade of getting the busts in place .To the backdrop of the mad seventies in Argentina .

Have you a favourite books about Argentina’s past .

The tango singer by Tomás Eloy Martínez


The Tango Singer by Tomás Eloy Martínez

Argentinean fiction

Original title –  El cantor de tango

Translator – Anne McLean

Source – personnel copy

Will they marvel at the miracles I did perform
And the heights I did aspire
Or will they tear out the pages of the book
To light a fire

With the rain on my face
There is no place that I belong
Did you forget this fucking singer so soon?
And did you forget my song?

The last two verses of the song The singer by Nick cave remind me of Julio in a way .


Well I’ve left it till near the end to finally join in Richards Argentinean theme writers of doom event for last three months of 2014 .I finally choose another book by a writer whose two previous books I have reviewed here and enjoyed .Tomas Eloy martinez I have reviewed on the blog  Santa Evita and Purgatory  , two books  for me that  rank among my favourite books from Latin America so I’m surprised it took me this long to get The tango singer which has sat on the shelves for a good few years .Martinez was Journalist and academic as well ,being a writer , he passed away in 2010 .

No one knew why Martel performed in such inhospitable places , without charging a cent .At the end of spring of 2001 there were lots of clubs , theaters , bars and Milongas in Buenos Aires that would have welcomed him with open arms .Perhaps he was ashamed of exposing a body mercilessly abused by illness day after day

Julio just plays in dark corners of the city that are hard to follow .

The tango singer follows the story of Bruno Cadogan , who has been given the chance as a student to go to Buenos Aires to study .But he is happy because he has become gripped by Tango singers and he has heard of one such singer from the city Julio Martel , who has never been recorded singing and doesn’t really do concerts more turns up and starts singing never announced. His voice is considered the best Tango singer ever .So Bruno arrives in the city and is hunting to see this old man sing , but along the way we find out Julio story how he became such a star and how sad is life is .Add to this Bruno is a bit of a literary romantic so wants to see the city of Borges , the story Aleph by Borges gets mentioned quite a lot as a reference point maybe for Bruno own journey through the city and finally meeting this mysterious singer .

A few days after arriving I visited the house at 994 Maipu street where Borges had lived for more than forty years, and I had the sensation that I’d seen it somewhere else or , which was worse , that it was a scene destined to disappear as soon as I turned my back .

Borges crops up a lot in the book his ghost still seems to haunt both the city and Martinez in this book .

I love the layer Martinez builds in this book as we take its twists and turns  .Julio and Bruno are like two planets orbiting  around the city of Buenos Aires and Borges is like the sun of the centre of the  city and eventually these two planets will eclipse one another .Oh I can be a little abstract at times, this book is  really an ode to a city warts and all , to the writers and singers that live with in that city .Martinez builds the tension as Bruno gets closer to Julio but also in the dark past of the city makes this feel like a thriller at times .I would picture this book making a great film the young man on the quest to find the old sage of a singer . Martinez manages to capture the good and bad of a city which he spent some time in but he had lived many years in exile and this feels more about the city he remembered than the city at the time the book is set .If you have read any other of his books I’m sure you will love this one and if you need an introduction to him this is maybe a good one to start with as it has bits of each of the other two books I’ve read .Well can’t see it be too long before I read The Peron novel by him .

Have you a favourite book about music or singers ?

Talking to Ourselves by Andrés Neuman


Talking to ourselves by Andrés Neuman

Argentinian fiction

Original title – Hablar Solos

Translator – Nick Caistor and Lorenza Garcia

Source – Review Copy

Well I was so pleased to be sent Andrés second book to be translated into English as his first book Traveller of the century was one of my favourite books of 2012 .Andrés is one of the biggest stars of Spanish language fiction ,he has won a lot of the big prize from the Spanish-speaking world and was also on the IFFP last year .

The I start to sing , and my mouth gets bigger .It makes Dad laugh to see how happy I am .But Mum doesn’t laugh .

I’d been pestering them about it now for ages .Every summer .They always said the same thing .When you’re older .I hate it when they say that .I picture a long line of kids with me at the end .This time they argued ,not out loud .

I feel this captures the whole picture of what each is telling them selves in this novel .

Talking to ourselves is a novel made up of a trio of voices ,a family the father Mario is dying of cancer and want to take a road trip with his son Lito .Left behind trying to fathom out what is happening to her husband is Elena .Now Mario and Lito are on the road with Pedro their truck father and son ,Lito is so excited as he has want to see the places he has heard of over the years but til now he hasn’t be able to see that said his father wants this trip with Pedro to be his sons memory of him .Now at home the mother of the family is seeking solace in the arms of first book and then the doctor that has been treating her husband ,as she worries how it will all end .

I was going to say he drives me wild .But besides being cheesy that would be in accurate .It’s more like ,with Ezequiel as a pretext ,through his body ,I had allowed myself to go wild .His healthy young body ,Distant from death .

As I write this I Despise myself ,but sometimes Mario’s body disgusts me .Touching it is as difficult for me as it is for him to look in the mirror .

Elena struggles with her husband’s Illness

Now I described this book on twitter as a bit like the blind men describing an elephant proverb as the three narratives describe different thing ,like the proverb Lito story is a road trip with his dad ,he hasn’t noticed how ill his dad is .Mario journey is to make his young son remember him and Elena is to find solace .But like the proverb each is seeing something different in the present their own spin .At heart of this is how families deal with their tough times how often do we shield those nearest us from the truth ? How often like Elena in times of trouble do we seek Solace in the wrong places ? And like Lito as a kid how often do you miss or just not see the bigger picture ? I also said on twitter each narrative is the person holding a mirror to their soul ,rather like Borges each is finding their soul whether on the road or in the books they are reading ( There is a list of the books mention in the book at the back of the novel ) .I am a huge fan of Andrés  (I have met him and found him one of the warmest and approachable writers I have ever meet ) ,Did I want another Traveller of .. ,no I have always found the writers I love, are  like this book take different journeys on every book  they writer .It takes real courage to make every book different from the one before ,I feel this is what Bolano also saw in Andrés when he made his famous quote of the 21st century belonging to him and his blood brothers .Andrés has tackled cancer and dying in a family with out drifting into overly sentimental tones and given the family as a whole real voices of what real people would do in this situation .

Have you read any of his books yet ?


The lonely hearts club by Raul Nuñez


The lonely hearts club by Raul  Nuñez

Translator – Ed Emery

Original title –  Sinatra.

Source – Personnel copy

Raul Núñez was a Argentina writer ,poet and short story writer .He left Argentina at age twenty-five and then spent most of the next twenty-five years in Barcelona where this book is set .I believe this is the only book that has been translated and is sadly it appears out of print ,but is easily available second-hand it seems  from what I looked at on the net .He passed away in 1996 he wrote four novels leaving a fifth novel unpublished .

Antonio bore a striking resemblance to frank Sinatra .Forty year of age and of medium height ,he was balding slightly and kept his hair close trimmed .He found himself a live in job as a night porter in a small hotel .This gave him free lodging ,and a bit of money besides .About a year previously ,his wife had left him to go off with a black man .

Why he joins a lonely hearts club

The lonely hearts club is the story of Antonio Castro ,he is a night porter in a small hotel ,which serves as his home he is married but rarely sees his wife  and then a year before the book is et she left him and his life is quite boring .But he has one plus in his life and that is that this  forty-year old has a striking resemblance to Frank Sinatra .Antonio decides to join a lonely heart club and via this runs into some strange characters ,a widower ,a dwarf poet and a gay barman .He also tries to help a 16-year-old that is lost in the city by setting her up in a room in the hotel as the boos only ever visits at the end of the month to collect the money he has made .Antonio or frank as he is know is a lost soul really in a city it seems of lost souls .

Dear Antonio Castro

I am three feet four inches tall .I weight seven stone and I’m twenty-two years old .I’m blonde ,and I’ve got blue eyes .My name is Bergonia Montana .I thought I ought to start my letter with the most important things .

Because I don’t like leading people on .As you can imagine ,I’ve not had a particularly easy life

The poet dwarf that he meets during his liaisons from the lonely heart clubs .

I picked this up after reading the Jacket copy and the fact it was one of the early serpent tail mask series ,which I have read other books from and liked them .The lonely hearts club is rather like a tom waits song transported to Spain ,his world is of shifty bars ,strange character on the edge of life ,drinking and lonely souls .The city also plays a big part in this book Barcelona is almost like the second main character in this story .As Antonio takes us on a tour of the parts of the city that us tourist would never see .The lonely hearts club itself is shown to be a collection of people like Antonio himself that haven’t got a lot in there lives or have lost something like the widow or need some sort of acceptance like the dwarf poet or the gay barman ,they are of course all drawn to Antonio for his resemblance to Sinatra  .I like the lively nature of his prose style  ,a great translation that even after 25 years has stood the test of time .

Have you read this book or any from the serpent’s tail mask series ?

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