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 ?

Under this terrible sun by Carlos Busqued

Under Sun

Under this terrible sun by Carlos Busqued

Orginial title – Bajo Este sol Tremendo

Translator – Megan McDowell

Source – review copy

Well I decide to review some of the wonderful books from Frisch and co over the next few weeks .Frisch and co are an e-book only piublisher of translated fiction and now just before christmas seemed a great time with Tablets and eReaders being this years top gift for most people ,everyone will be waking up on Christmas day turning there eReader or tablets on and wanting to place some great books on so I will point you in Frisch and co way .This book by the Argentina writer Carlos Busqued ,is a Buenos Aires based writer this book was his debut novel and was listed for the Prix Herralde ,it won praise for its use of direct language that may be vile but takes you to the heart of the expression .

The phone rang. The caller ID said “unknown,” which meant a call from a public telephone. Or from a person who was deliberately hiding their number. He didn’t answer.

Who is the call from ?

Under this terrible sun although quite unique in the books from Argentina I have read can be said to be in a vein of books from there ,the Lit thriller / crime novel .The pacing of the writing is very much like a thriller and the style is more akin to a lit novel .The book centres on a son whose mother has died this son Cetarti ,is a bit of a loser , well he remind me of a character that had maybe be cut from the Coen brother film The big lebowski or a side figure in Pynchon inherent vice ,this guy lives in a world of weed and documentary tv ,especially programmes about Giant squid for some reason .So Cetarti heads north to the part of Argentina his mother whom he had lost real touch with  when she lived .So he heads to the north of Argentina where he is  meet by the Lawyer Durate that is dealing with his mother’s estate .This leads to a side story of this Lawyers sideline and the man that helps him with this sideline Daniello (Now I viewed this guy as rather like the northern Argentina version of Cetarti a laid back dud that tends to follow what he is told to do just for an easy life ) Well the sideline happens to be transferring porn from old videos to digital content .Well that is the story it develops as we see the vile nature of the porn the men deal in and the waiting for the estate to be settled and how ever  there may be fraud involved .

He missed his car. At that moment, he would have liked to get on the highway with no specific plan. Cruise along the national highway system smoking the marijuana he had left, only stopping in service stations to fill up on gas, shower, and eat. He had a pleasant memory of the insects smashing against the windshield seconds after being illuminated by the car’s headlights. Sleep on the side of the road. Go with the flow. Smash into something on the road, in the final hours of an afternoon.

I choose this quote as it was highlighted by E J the publisher on the copy I read on Readermill .

Well this book owes as much to American lit as it does Argentinian lit .I was reminded of the later Pynchon book like  inherent vice  involves figures like this at the edge of life  ,stoners ,chancers  all feature in this book  .I also felt the porn section remind me of films like 8mm, where we open the door on the extremes of human nature ,very hard to read and eye-opening but this world exists and we are shown how vile it can be by this book .It also had a lot of similar tones to other recent Argentinian books I ve read that I would say fit into this Lit crime/thriller genre from Argentina they would be My father ghost climbing in the rain by Patricio Pron a son returns and uncovers his fathers past ,rather like this a man arrives and finds out more than he expected ,then there is also Carlos Gamerro’s books both on this lit crime feel and both follow men discovering more than want .This book is about discovering the underbelly of Argentina post the dictators that have often fuel the lit of the region what happens when they are gone how do some people go on ?

Have you a favourite novel from Argentina ?

My fathers’ Ghost is climbing in the rain by Patricio Pron

my fathers' ghost is climbing in the rain

My fathers’ Ghost is climbing in the rain by Patricio Pron

Argentinian fiction

Original title El espíritu de mis padres sigue subiendo en la lluvia

Translated by Mara Faye Lethem

Source – Netgalley

Well I am on netgalley and don’t often choose a book ,but when I saw this book ,which I had mentioned a few times in recent months was up for review I just had to choose it ,Pron has been on my radar for a couple of years  .He featured in the Granta  best  new Spanish language writing collection from 2011 ,and in fact  he was one of the writers And other stories was reading back in 2010 .So  Patricio  Pron studied in both Argentina and Germany ,before becoming a correspondent for a Le capital where he spent a lot of time travelling Europe ,eventually settling  in Madrid ,he has won a number of prizes for his books .This is his first novel to be translated into English

As I flew toward my father ,toward something I didn’t know but which was disgusting and frightening and sad ,I wanted to remember what I could about my life with him .There wasn’t much .

Patricio returning home to his dying father .

So My fathers’ ghost is climbing in the rain is a book about families and There past in Argentina .The story focus on a son who has found out his father is dying, back home in Argentina  the son is a writer the father was a builder ,so he returns to Argentina from Germany .Father and son have a strained relationship and have grown distant over time .The son returns to his parents house and  while looking round finds documents ,maps clipping  regard an incident in the past ,that his father was obsessed with an incident and the one man and a girl .This leads the son on a journey ,Patricio finds out about his parents past and what happened in 1977 the height of the time called the dirty war in Argentina . Patricio the son is unaware of what his parents did during this time and via this journey into the past he discovers more than he expected and maybe ends up closer to his father .A journey though a man death in 2008 back to a girl who “disappeared” by the junta and what was a father search for justice . Pron handles the past of Argentina with subtle tones through a family story .

The folder was thirty by twenty-two centimetres ,made of a very lightweight cardboard in a pale yellow colour .It was two centimetres thick and enclosed by two elastic bands that once been white but at this point had a slight brown tone :one of the bands held the folder from top to bottom and the other along its width which made them form a cross ; more specifically a Latin cross

Patricio finds his father collection of clippings and things .

Pron manages to  fit nicely in my thoughts on Argentinian fiction ,between a number of  other Argentinian writers I ve read in recent years. The father and son relationship could be a grown up version of the narrator in Marcelo Figueras Kamchatka  which I reviewed here set during the time ,one could imagine Patricio as a grown version of Harry the narrator of that book .Carlos Gamerro is another writer which  springs to mind both his books I have under review here , are crimeesque without being crime more as in this case as one man’s quest for the truth is like a master detective searching for the smoking gun , in Carlos Gamerro case , what happened in the dirty war in Open secret and during the Falklands in The islands ,also a wider sense in spanish language writing to look back on past events recent books by Lhosa ,Marquez ,Cercas and Goytisolo have all looked at the recent past with honest eyes and breadth like My fathers ‘ ghost is climbing in the rain does .Pron book evokes the past in the present and is wonderfully held together in English by the translator Lethem .We also see how father and sons can be distant over time but when the layers are peeled away are one and the same .

Hvae you a favourite book  from Argentina ?


The islands by Carlos Gamerro

The Islands by Carlos Gamerro

Argentinian fiction

Translated by Ian Barnett with Carlos Gamerro

source review copy

Carlos Gamerro  born in 1962 ,studied literature  in Buenos Aires .He then became a visiting fellow in Cambridge .He is also a translator of English into Spanish he has translated Auden and Harold Blooms works into Spanish,He has also lived in Gibraltar for a time so has a small insight into the british side of the story   .Although this is his  second book published in English ,this was actually  his début novel he has so far written five novel .This book is also now a play as well .

Now this is the second book by Carlos Gamerro I’ve read in the last twelve months the first was open secret a story about the dirty war and the aftermath on one village in Argentina .Now in this book ” The islands” (Las Isla )is another story set in Argentina recent past .This time it is set in 1992 but looking back at the Falklands war .For those of you outside the UK I explain The Fakland islands are archipelago  of  2 large islands and 700 small islands that over its history had swapped through many hands til in 1833 it came under British rule ,but it has been disputed with its nearest neighbour Argentina that state a claim on the islands or as the call them Las Malvinas .This book is timely with the 30th anniversary of the war and also a recent heightening of the tension between the UK government and Argentina government over the sovereignty  of the islandsthis year   .So this dispute reach a new height in 1982 when Argentina invade the islands .This is where The Islands starts in 1992 a Computer Hacker Felipe Felix  is summoned to the Headquarters of a large company and the boss Fausto Tamerlan .Fausto wants Felipe to find out who witness a crime committed by his son  .Another son was in the Falklands .Then add in a armadillo shell stuffed with treasure and we have the start of a novel of multiple strands and some dead ends .

He opened them to look at me .

” My son killed someone ” ; he said .” in this very room .Threw him out of that window “.He pointed to the one immediately behind me .”Five nights ago .To explain what your job will be .You’ve been allowed a privilege reserved for a happy few ;to penetrate to the heart of the diamond .

Sr Tamerlan tells Felipe why he summoned him to the office .


Now Felipe is a man scared by the war himself his is a sort hacker come private investigator ,he spent the last ten years since the war in drugs and the virtual on-line world trying to escape the horrors he saw and the time he spent in a freezing trench on the islands .Now Felipe still knows all the right people knowing some veterans from the conflict ,via this he knows some one in SIDE the Argentina’s secret services .He finds out via hacking the computer files at SIDE that a certain major may have been involved in the son’s crime via the majors wife .But this major was also a dark figure from dirty war that wrote his diary about his time on the island .we view his world via his diary

25TH May 1982 – A glorious national holiday .We celebrated with a barbecue ,which improved the morale of the rank and file ,in spite of the two sheep that we sacrifice barely satisfying our hunger . The scarcity of provisions is alarming .Later ,after handing round some steaming mugs of mate ,which the Kelpers eagerly drank .I made a sort speech declaring them full Argentinian citizens .

from the diary of Major x ,Kelpers is the nickname for the Faklander islanders .

Oh rather like open secret was The island is a complex piece of writing crossing genres part war novel,part crime story ,part spy novel ,part road trip ,part confessional ,part cyber thriller .The  list is endless .a stream of different styles that take you into a mad world of broken men ,dead men ,dreams of grandeur and nightmares of defeat all play a part .We see the reasons for the war and the outfall from the Argentinian  point of view .Now I was only ten when the war happened and my memories are of the British side of the war .But I found this interview with Carlos on line quite enlightening .The war was quite horrific for both sides and as much as my memories before reading this novel are of the union jack flying and some of our troops that suffered horrific injuries ,this book opened my eyes to the suffering and the broken dreams of the men that went to chase a dream of capturing what to them was a dream of a better future and Felipe is one of those men . And in that future men of power still try to cover the crimes that are going on in the present as well as the past.He said Burroughs and Pynchon were influences whilst writing this book and I can see it has a twisted style like Burroughs and the scope of Pynchon works .This another read for spanish lit month

Have you read Carlos Gamerro ?


Traveller of the century by Andres Neuman

Traveller of the century by Andres Neuman

Argentina fiction

Translators Nick Casitor and Lorenza Garcia

Now when you read on the front cover this quote from Roberto Bolano ,which came from a piece called Neuman ,touched by grace (available in Bolano’s between parentheses)

The literature of the twenty first century will belong to Neumann and a few other blodd brothers of his

So when your faced with that you know you arte in for something special .Andres Neuman is Argentina born in 1977 ,he grew up in Buenos Aires and now like many of his fellow Argentinian writers lives in Spain ,he has a degree in Spanish Philology and has taught spanish american literature .He published his first novel age 22 .He has won a number of big Spanish lit prize with this and his earlier books .,this one the prestigious national critic awards .It is his fourth novel and the first to be translated to English .

Traveller of century is one of those hefty book that you know is going to be deep and meaningful before you open the cover and like a lot of very long books is hard to describe without writing a super long post and giving away too much . So I ll just be giving a flavour of the book .We meet the traveller of the title in a mystical nineteenth century Europe ,well what is modern Germany now , the strange city of Dessau .So Hans the traveller arrives he is on a long journey and this is a stop for him so armed with a huge case of books as he is a reader and translator himself , he enters the city.But this city is all that it seems ?So he goes to stay in the Inn in the town and over the next few day we see this strange town open up through the eyes of Hans .I decide to do some research on the town mention in the book I came to a work by the Asturian composer called Winterreise (winter journey) which sees a man on a journey stop at the town of Dessau songs include one about a Inn and one about a hurdy gurdy man who also appears in the book by Neuman .So it seems in part that is one influence for the book .Back to the story Hans falls for a pretty young girl in the village Sophie Gottlieb but she is with another man .We see Hans slowly woo Sophie and interact with the towns folk innkeeper Herr Zeit (zeit german for time ) .Hans is a translator and a philosophical type guy so there is much discussion of the philosophical movements of the time and writers like Goethe are mention .

This is the heterogenous basis of our thoughts,feelings and writings .In order to avoid getting lost in metaphor and upsetting you ,I shall try to give you a concrete example professor ,Does Goethe feel German on the one hand and the other speak in six languages ? or rather ,as an individual who speaks and reads several different languages,does Goethe feel in a specific way that is peculiar to him and which is this case expressed itself in the german language ?

So as you see deep stuff at times .

Well if you want to know Hans gets on does he get the women ,does he ever leave Dessau ? this and many other answers you will find out by reading the book .So how to place the book it is hard as it is epic in scale and due to that I ve struggled to cover it and feel I ll need to reread it at some point .But it has flavours of all those epic European writers Thomas Mann is the one that cropped up in the reviews and his Magic mountain a classic in the bildungsroman style (this will be another one day I feel) and is mention in a quote from a review in the back cover ,but I also felt bits of Calvino something of “if on a winter’s night ..2 expanded out to wide-screen ,also the early books of Orhan Pamuk sprung to my mind the books where things like thought ,philosophy and being are all brought together in a wonderful stew .I like Neuman’s little touches like the clever surnames zeit – time ,Gottlieb – god’s love and others just seems a clever wordplay .The way the city of Dessau seems to drift ,this in particular remind me of Calvino’s invisible cities a city that every time we see Hans in it seems to be different yet the same ,like Calvino managed in Invisible cities .SO what we get is book that on the surface seems like a European book but I feel at the heart of it is something very Argentina and that maybe is the struggle for identity the way writers like Neumann span continents and in a way manage to bring the best of europe and Latin american writing together ,so yes I agree with Bolano the twenty-first century does belong to Neuman and his blood brothers .This is another book for Spanish language lit month .

Have you read this book ?

Do you have a favourite Argentinian writer ?

Open secret by Carlos Gamerro

An open secret by Carlos Gamerro

Argentina Fiction

Translator – Ian Barnett

Carlos Gamerro is an argentina writer and literary critic ,born in 1962 he was broguth up speaking both spanish and english ,he has published six novels so far this is the first out in english and another the island due out next year .He has also translated shakespeare and Harold Bloom into spanish .

An open secret was the third novel I’d read from Argentina last year that dealt with the Dirty war period  .Yet again it took another twist on the time ,the other two Purgatory took a wife who’s  husband disappeared ,Kamchatka was told from a young sons point of view at the time .Now An open secret set in the present and uses a young man called Fefe as he  returns to the town where his grandfather was Mayor and he spent summers as a boy ,he arrives at the small town of Malihuel ,he has a agenda and that is to get to the bottom of what happened to Dario Ezcurra who disappear in the dirty war time of 1976 to 1983.But tells them he is researching a piece on a fictional murder in a small town .As the action unfold the fact that only one man in a town of three thousand has become symbolic for the country as a whole as the futher Fefe goes the more people where there or knew what had happened ,you feel the  danger as the locals try to close ranks and Fefe feels he might be in danager himself from the locals .

“So why did you choose us ? I mean there are so many towns in the province ” Don Leon wants to kno now .

“I used to come here as a boy ,”I reply”every summer.That’s how Gudio and I know each other ”

“He’s Echerzarrea,your grandfather ? ” Gudio chimes in.”poli’s son”

Fefe says why he came to Malihuel

I felt Gamerro caught a nation looking towards its self and fefe was in some ways a nations concious looking at what happened at that time ,and malihuel is a typical villages as Gamerro describes it intersped in the chapters the every day argentina place and I think this is him symbolising the place as thou it was any where in the country they all have petrol stations cafes  etc .The book is paced  very in the thriller esque mode that constant turning of the screw this is help as the speech has little or no punctuation thus give the effect of speed as thou the words can’t come quick enough ,  as Fefe moves towards the truth ,what was once a friendly place becomes dark and unfriendly as we see what the effect of one mans death had on this small town of three thousand yet even thou the town is small we get to meet a host of strange and wonderful characters almost like a cross section of the country as a whole  .Yet again I’m amazed with the openness Argentina writers are now approach this time in there history .I look forward to Gamerro new novel I enjoted Ian Barnett translation he is based in Argentina and translated other writers from there and you get a feel he has a sense of the rhythm of the language .

Purgatory by Tomas Eloy Martinez

Purgatory by Tomas Eloy Martinez

Argentina fiction

Translator – Frank Wynne

I read his Santa Evita a mythical magic realism tale based around the life of Eva Peron early on in the blog and have Tango singer sat on my shelves so when this arrived from Bloomsbury I was excited even more so when I saw it was one of Frank Wynne’s translation ,for me one of the best translators  in the world and certainly when in comes to complex fiction like this .

So Purgatory was Tomas last novel and the fact that in part it is narrated by a north american based Argentina writer as Tomas Eloy himself .The story is centre on Simon and Emilia these where husband and wife, when thirty years earlier in the seventies at the height of the disappearances in Argentina by the Junta .Simon disappear whilst doing his job as a cartographer .Now thirty years later his wife Emilia walks in a bar and sitting there is Simon ,but he hasn’t aged a day ,is it him or a ghost that never really gets answered but as the story progress Martinez jumps from the events leading up to Simon disappearance there married life ,their work as cartographers ,also what was going on around them .We also her Emilia talking to the writer in the modern day about her life and Simon .Also the outside world of the world cup of 78 which was held in Argentina ,Orson Welles    and UFO  all crop up along the way .

Simon disappeared in Tucuman at the beginning of July .The days were mild and the nights frosty .He and Emilia had been sent to the Tucuman by the automobile club on an easy mission , virtually a holiday .They were to map a ten kilometre stretch of an invisible route – nothing more than a dotted line on the map to the south of the province .

in this quote it seems ok til you read it closer .


Now this story is layered the title is a give away to the subject Purgatory and even this has many faces ,Emilia unable to properly move on with her life after Simons disappearance as she has been in limbo like many wifes of the disappeared  ,has maybe by see him purged this feeling  from her life .Argentina its self maybe after a time of not looking at what happened during the time of disappearances and now is maybe  just recently is able to face what happened during that time of the junta .I ve seen this in a number of recent Argentina novels I ve read Kamchatka and open secret to name two  .Also Martinez who at time he wrote book had cancer and maybe this book is his way of purging what happened at the time as well he saw many thinks at first hand and at a distance as he was a journalist at the time .The story mixes what happened with fiction so well and also how it affect everyday Argentina’s .Again Martinez shows his ability to use magic realism to make reality even bolder than before .A fitting testament to his writing life and a great job as ever by Frank bring it to English.

Have you read Martinez ?

Kamachatka by Mareclo Figueras

Source – Frank Wynne the translator of this book .

Translator  – Frank Wynne

Marcelo Figueras is an Argentina writer and film maker born in the early sixties he has written four novels and wrote for various spanish magazines ,This is his first book to be translated into english

The last thing papa said to me ,the last word from his lips ,was “Kamchatka ” .

He kissed me ,his stubble scratching my cheek ,then climbed into the Citroen .The car moved of along the undulating ribbon of road ,a green bubble bobbing into view with every hill,getting smaller and smaller until I couldn’t see it any More .

The open ,what did his father mean !

Right the book ,it is set in seventies just after a coup and the period called the dirty war  ,the book is narrated by a ten-year old boy ,for most of the book called Harry a name chosen by the young boy as his hero is the legendary escape artist Harry Houdini ,as he parts Left wingers are forced to flee their home in Buenos Aires to head to a safe house in the back and beyond of Argentine .the book is divide into parts each relating to a school day ,This book is from Harry’s point of view and a bit like Wil Wheaton says in stand by me the days when you’re the age before you discover girls are the best and this is Harry ,yes there is Danger but Harry is more interest in Tv and drinking Nesquik .he talks about the Midget it took me a couple mentions to realised this was his younger brother a close relationship beautifully portrayed  .Harry compares people he meets to the characters he sees on tv mainly from his favourite show Invaders ,which I vaguely remember seeing as a Kid myself .also the saint which I loved myself as a kid .Childhood is a large chunk of this book ,I would imagine a lot of the likes and worries of Harry are from Marcelo’s own childhood although he is a few years older than Harry when the book is set .Marcelo also is a wonderful visual writer ,bring the  places the family visit along the way to Life so much .This is a refreshing change to other Latin American  books based round coups which on whole have been dark and more political ,here we get a reflection on how these events effect a family ,we ‘ve all heard about people going on the run ,now here is a book that shows it through a child’s eyes. The book has been made into a successful Film in Argentina which was Argentina choice for the foreign Oscar in 2002 .The book was translated by Frank terrible-man Wynne  with real lightness the story flows and sometimes you forget this wasn’t written in English .This is on this years Independent foreign fiction prize long list and hopefully shortlist .so what did his fathers last words mean ? well you’ll have to read the book to find out !!

Have you a favourite Argentina Novel ?

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