Money to Burn by Ricardo Piglia

 

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Money to Burn by Ricardo Piglia

Argentinan fiction

Original title – Plata Quemada

Translator – Amanda Hopkinson

Source – Personal copy

I have always had a great love since I started this blog of fiction from Argentina with 27 books under review. I knew it was time I featured Ricardo Piglia, a writer, and critic best known for introducing Argentina to Hardboiled crime novels from the great American writers. He also wrote a number of crime novels. This one came out a number of years ago. His last book to be translated came out a couple of years ago from Deep Vellum, I have a copy of that as well to review at some point. But started with this as it seemed to be a great genre-defying piece of work. A novel based on an actual crime that also saw Piglia sued by relatives and people he had depicted in the book. which saw a payout for how they were depicted in the novel.

They are called the twins because they’re inseparable. But they aren’t brothers, nor do they even look like one another. In factit would be hard to find two more different physical types. What they have in common is a way of looking at you, withtheir pale, placid eyes, a savage stare in a suspicious face. Dorda is heavy and quiet, with a ruddy face and an easy smile.Brgnone is thin, slightly built, agile, has black hair and a complex so pallid, it looks as if he’s spent more time in jail than he actually has.

The opening lines describe the twins or as they are nicknamed The gauch and the Kid. Dorda is a simple soul it turns out.

The book follows a crime that actually happened in Buenos Aires on the 27 September 1965 a group of bank robbers who had considered themselves like Urban Guerillas robbed a bank. They went on the run til six weeks later they were surrounded by the military police and a siege occurred which became the stuff of legend. These men the twins Dorda and Brignone were depicted as lovers hence being called the twins because they were described as inseparable. together with twelve other men in a gang, they were called the Tascura gang. they commit the robbery and go on the run with millions in one of the biggest crimes in Latin American history. The main focus of the book is these two men and the relationship also what happened during and after the crime. As the two called the Gaucho and the kid during the book add a sense of the outlaw feel of the book a sense of the crime harking back to the great crimes of the wild west or even before that with characters like Dick Turpin. We also see the nature of the men as two gay men in the society that wouldn’t accept them as Macho males. Then we also see how relationships suffer when under pressure as the law captures up with them in the form of Silva the policeman in charge of finding the gang.

Next day the newspapers carried pictures of Police commissinor Silva in the act of identifying the corpse of Twisty Bazan in a bar beside the harbour. His pronouncements were both sententious and contradictory (mutally incompatiable, even), as befits a perfect example of police logic.

“in this country criminals fall to illing ine another in order to avoid coming to Justice, We are on the trail of the gang of assassins who robbed the San Fernando bank and their hours are now numbered.

The dead man was an inform but it looked like bprogress early on in the case.

The bond between the two main characters is that of the classic partners in crime butch and Sundance, Bonnie and Clyde, Frank and Jesse James. The novel is formed of reports of the time and Piglia actually started writing the book just after the actual events coming back to it many years later. He said in an interview when the book came out he was influenced by Oscar Lewis works but also the New journalism of the 1970s. .He said he used the actual record events and placed a fiction on top of this. I said he was a writer I liked to feature as he in some ways is the Heir of Borges for the way he liked to defy genre but also subverting the crime and detective novel something Borges did in the early forties with his stories. The only problem with this book is that we may have lost something in the translation as the Spanish edition is known for his use of slang that was used at the time. Something that is hard to transfer. It has a great sense of pace at times and keeps the tension that must have been in the original book.

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Die, my love by Ariana Harwicz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Die, my love by Ariana Harwicz

Argentinean fiction

Original title – Matate, amor

Translators – Sarah Moses and Carolina Orloff

Source – review copy

This is the last of three books I was sent by Charco press earlier this year. I had reviewed the other two before the Man Booker longlist came out and this was on my reading pile so it was great to see it on the longlist and also a new publisher like Charco press on the list.Ariana Harwicz had been compared to Virginia Woolf and Nathalie Surraute. she is one off the most radical writers in Modern Argentina. This book is the first of a trilogy and her debut novel. She currently lives in France and this is the first book by her to be translated into English.

I’m at the table after dinner. The meal has been cleared away and all that’s left is my glass. The plates are drying on the rack, the salt is in its place and my husband has gone to lie down. The new dog is about to pisss somewhere. I know I have to get up, but I don’t I stretch my legs out onto another chair and nod off while sucking on a toothpick. Now the dog’s coming to piss under the table but I still don’t get up. My trousers are unbuttoned.

Her life has drawn to a halt in places and she can’t be bothered at times like here .

The book is narrated by an unnamed female narrator. She lives with her husband and their kids in a rural area of France. Now this is a book that floats in a world of no setting really as there is no names given to anyone just her husband my son and her. What we see is a woman struggling with her world. the world is one of those who dream of a world away from the city. You are given that this woman had followed her husband dreams to live this rural dream. A back to nature that for her is like an ever decreasing circle a world that is shrinking daily for her. At one point she mentions read Mrs Dalloway and there is a shared feeling of  being trapped in a world that we see over space of one day in Woolf’s  work here the whole experience is more drawn out and more horrific for it the gentle grinding hatred of her world the sheer horror of being alone in this rural idyll that has for her become like a journey into Conrad’s heart of darkness were violence may be the last way out.

I stay in the car, the windows foggy. I turn up the volume and take my foot of the clutch. “Mrs Dallowway is a novel about time and the interconnectivity of human existence”. How long has it been since I’ve heard that kind of language? Interconnectivity. Fucking hell. I try to turn the plastic cog but the seat win’t recline. My husband watches me swear from afar, reading my lips and smiling.He has a cigarette behind his ears like a shopkeeper. I wonder wg=hat i’d make of this very woodland , this rustic setting, the half built house, the man nailing down planks of wood, if a critic said my writing dealt with he “interconnectivity of human exixtence “I burst out laughing

A black humoured look at her life and lack of cultural outlets for her in the rural world alone as she is

This isn’t an easy read it is very much in the style of Woolf and for me, I was reminded of Duras the books I have read by her. It is a slow burning book of rural life but the underlying hatred of her world is slowly burning and shrink around her. I felt at times the scene in Brief Encounter where Laura is just sat listening to Rachmaninoff and her world seems to have trapped her. The Narrator is like Laura as she is trapped in her marriage she hasn’t an Alec for a glimmer of light no just a build hatred and disappointment of her life and her family as she shows her vulnerable nature and broken dreams, which can easily become some far worse you feel.

 

Slum Virgin by Gabriela Cabezón Cámara

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Slum Virgin by Gabriela Cabezón Cámara

Argentinean fiction

Original title – La Virgen Cabeza

Translator – Frances Riddle

Source – Review copy

I reviewed the first of three books from New press Charco press last week a new publisher featuring the freshest voices in Latin American fiction. I was grabbed when I saw Andres Neuman was quoted on the front cover calling this book Pure dynamite. More than enough for me to want to read the book, having met and read Andres books I trust his taste. This was Gabriela debut novel and won a number of prizes when it came out. She has since written four more novels this is her first book to appear in English.

Oh, Quity, if you’d only started the story at the beginning you’d understand things so much better. What’s the beginning? There are loads of beginnings, my sweetness, because there are loads of stories, but I want to tell the story of this love of ours, which you don’t remember to well, Quity.You tell some things like the happened and some of the other things , well I don’t know what you do my love say all kinds of stupid stuff.So I’m going to tell our story myself

One of the chaoers where Cleo first speaks interupting Quity as she writes.

Slum virgin is told in the form of someone sitting writing a story about the Slum in Buenos Aires and a transvestite prostitute called Cleo. The main Narrator of the story is a journalist Quity who is searching for the story of the year to climb the ladder in her job at the newspaper when via a friend Daniel, the story of Cleo and how she is trying to better the slums where she lives. So the journalist goes where she has not been before to the slums to see what Cleo is trying to do for the slum people and herself as she had seen a vision fo the Virgin Mary telling her to sort her life and those around her out. The story is told mixing the slum world with Quity obvious classical world loving prose as she sees the world of the slum-like greek and classical myths. The two grow closer and closer as the book goes on.

I know I’m famous because I cantalk to the virgin and not because of my tits, even thou they are pretty big. For someone who claims to be straight, I have to say you went pretty crazy for them, and when I got these huge nipples that youlove so much and cost us a fortune to redo in Miami you made me feel like the wolfthat nursed beoth Remus and Romulus .

The quote comparing Cleo breast to the wolf from Classical greek myths

This book has a lovely feel to the prose it is written as thou we are reading Quity writing about the story in short piece almost like the small pieces for a newspaper with the continuing story of Cleo and the slum. But this is also interrupted at times as Cleo in her voice sets the record straight. Like in the start where Quity starts at the end of the story and Cleo interupts between chapters and says she should start at the start. I loved the vision of comparing the world to that of classical myth this is rather similar to Joyce and Ulysses where certain situations follow Homers prose. Her we see Cleo whose surname is the spanish for Wolf sees her impressive fake breast compared to that of the wolf that fed Romulus and Remus in classic myth. A powerful novella about trying to change the world in a world of drugs, secret police private security, transvestites, dealers and the down and outs in the underbelly of Buenos Aires.

Fireflies by Luis Sagasti

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Fireflies by Luis Sagasti

Argentinean fiction

Original title – Bellas Artes

Translator – Fionn Petch

Source – Review copy

I’m so pleased when I discover a new publisher. Charco press is a new publisher and is based in Scotland and wanting to bring the brightest new talents from Latin America. The first of three books I have been sent to read by them. This is one of those books that makes you remember why as a reader I have chosen to read fiction in translation. Luis Sagasti is a writer, Lecturer and art critic. He s also Curator of the museum of contemporary art in Bahia Blanca, they have an interesting blog

Beuys’ deep blue eyes seem to have cracked. He places his hands on the woman’s shoulders.She blinks awkwardly. Amd asks him: “is the story of the Tartars true? is Karl with the Tartars?”

Beuys removes his felt hat and holds it to his chest.The woman gazes at his scars and understood what she need to understand.

The hare understands art

is the anything to understand?

without the slightest doubt, art is the answer.

What he can’t be sure about is the question

Beuys was an enigma and again even his hat linked to Crimea and the Tartars !

In his song, Fireflies John grant says ~”She catches fireflies at the ice cream social and oh we watch them take flight” The title of this book in English is fireflies and the fireflies in these books are ideas. The book has a sebaldian feel to it a book where each part interconnects with earlier part a collection of small pieces about famous and less famous people. The core of the book is a story of Joesph Beuys and the aftermath of his crash in the second world war in Crimea, where he survived by being wrapped in felt and fat. Then how Gagarin got picked for the space flight over another man un the end. Urban myths like was it Pete Best in the abbey road cover in the background. The death of Antoine de Saint Exupery all gets mention and link in as we have eight stories or vignettes interlinking.

Yuri Gararin was chosen from among 300 candidates to make the first manned voyage outside the earths atmosphere. The son of a milkmaid and carpenter upholds the spirit of Socialism better than one whose father is a teacher and has a foreign sounding name: Gherman Titov misses out after two tie-breaks.

How He ended up in space , remind me of an exhbition Star city about Soviet space flight and art.

As I said this is hard to pin down what it is as a book? It is my good friend Susan from Istros they have a word in Slovenian for good prose that walks the line between fiction and non-fiction like the great book Panorama this is a book that rips at the soul of the reader. For me, I love when a book connects to my own life and this is what has happened here, in particular, the piece about Joesph Beuys rung with me as I lived for a time in the town of his birth just as they were doing a museum at his birthplace and my partner of the time her father lived in Kassel where there is a number of Beuys installations the 700s oaks rung the connection to the crashing in the forest of Crimea he and other plants 700 trees each with a special stone marker. then remembering being amazed the first time I heard the story of the piece  Fettecke another line back to the Crimea and the fat the smothered his body. This is what great books like this do ignite a light in the reader’s mind. A Spanish review describes the book as being like opening pages and linking through a web browser. Fireflies is an apt title as they light up the dark and fly around so quickly, like them this is a book small but full of light easily read in an evening you’ll be thinking about it for days after and going back and rereading parts.

62: A model Kit by Julio Cortazar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

62: A Model Kit by Julio Cortazar

Argentinean fiction

Original title –  62/Modelo para armar

Translator – Gregory Rabassa

Source – Personal copy

I said when I reviewed The boat in the evening, I had another book from 1968 to review. This is it the second book for this blog by Julio Cortazar. The novel was a spin-off from his earlier book Hopscotch. He states that this book like his earlier book. Could be read in any order as each passage could link in any way to any other passages. Julio Cortazar own life was rather like the book itself he spent time in France Paris is one of the man place mentioned in the book and also a number of the characters are from Argentina.

Then I’ll walk through my city and I’ll enter the hotel

Or from the hotel I’ll go out to the zone of toilets redolent with urine and excrement,

Or I’ll be with you, my love, because with you I’ve gone down to my city on occasion

and in the streetcar thick with alien, shapeless pssengers I understood

That the abomination was coming, that the Dog was going to happen and I tried

to hold you against me, protect you from fright, but so many bodies separeted us, and when forced you off in a confused movement

The barebones of story no names and no places at times but wonderfully written.

Now this book is probably one of the most difficult I have read but also compelling. The action surrounds a number of characters Juan an Argentinean is the main character, he is maybe a shadow version of Julio himself. Then two fellow Argentinean’s Polanco and Cala add a piece of comic relief Masarrat a sculptor and Nicole an illustrator add the artistic nature and student and an older woman mix it in this novel in the city now this is a city that may be Oslo, Paris or London. The characters meet in places but they describe the cities but it also could just be another unnamed city that reminds this rag tag bunch of characters as they meet and drink. Then we also have a Vampire subplot.

Of course, the argument have absolutely nothing to do with swallows, as anyone who understands the language of the two Tartars can testify.

“Of all the people I know, you’re the biggest Cronk,” Calac says.

“And you’re the biggest pettifor,” Polanco says.”you call me a cronk, sir, but it ‘s obvious that you’ve never boneyed your face in a mirror.”

“What you’re trying to do is start a fight with me, mister,” Calac says.

The two argetineans are also reffered to as Tartars at times they fall oout in a slapstick manor at times.

How do you describe the avant-garde fiction this is a muddled book at times but with the real beauty in his writing. Like his fellow Argentinean Borges this is a book of Mirrors on the prose sometimes you feel you’ve read something before but it is slightly different.Then the book is also lime the famous Mazes the Borges also liked. Julio Cortazar he stated the book could be read in a  jumbled up order.Like BS Johnson’s masterpiece The unfortunates which went a step further than this book and had all the prose piece in separate small pamphlets for the reader to order as we wanted. So what we never know fully is where when and how the characters are connected just that they are this is, of course, an Oulipo novel so like the other books by writers from that group I have read it is the prose that matter, not a narrative timeline or order. Calvino with his playing card inspired piece the castle of crossed destinies. Then we also have two other books Dear reader and The flight of Icarus both that play with narrative style. Icarus using two interlocking storylines and Dear reader looks at what is the future of the book itself. This was a challenge and thanks for the 968 club for getting me to buy it for the challenge.

Winter Quarters by Osvaldo Soriano

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winter Quarters by Osvaldo Soriano

Argentinian fiction

Original title –  Cuarteles de invierno

Translator – Nick caistor

Source – Personal copy

Another Latin American novel for Spanish lit month.This time I revisit a writer from the past , Osvaldo Soriano. He died in 1997. He started his writing life as a journalist. But as he was considered left wing. There was a period of six months where he had none of his articles being published. So he wrote a novel about Stan Laurel with Philip Marlow as character. He later placed this book at Laurel’s grave. This was his third novel and his second book to be translated into English, his book dirty  A funny Little war was the first which I reviewed here   . This is a follow on to that book set in the same small village in A funny dirty little war.

The two men waiting on the platform looked bored. The one who seemed to be the station master wore a shiny black suit. A cigarette dangled from his lips. The other , a fatmman in blue overalls was waving qa dim lantern in the direction of the train driver. I picked up my case and started down the aisle .The compartment was almost empty ; the other passengers were sprawled out asleep .I jumped down onto the platform and looked around .

The opening and a low key greeting for Andres Galvan arrivial in Colonia Vela

This book follows two characters that have washed up in the small village of  Colonia Vela three years after the original book. Rocha a down on his heels boxer, but to coin the old boxing phrase, he was a contender at one point having won a big fight earlier in his career. He has been brought here as an opponent. To fight the up and coming local champion who also happens to be the Army’s champion. Rocha meets Anders Galvin a clever but also like Rocha that has also seen his best day he is a Tango singer. Both are there for the same event.We see the boxer fall for the Mayor’s daughter as they are there to be the losers on the night and there are no two ways about that. A tale of two losers drawn together in a small town.

“Come nd visit ,” Rocha said to me .”If you decide to stay and want to see me before the fight, I’ve already forgiven you fior what you said, so ..”

“Thanks ” I replied. “I’ll come and see you tomorrow. And take care, they reckon the local kid is hot stuff..”

He straightrened my tie with his good hand “I’ll dump him in the third” He took out a large banknote and stuck it into my top pocket with a flourish.”Pay for the room and let me have the change later”

The two meet and Rocha doesn’t see the full picture  of the fight !

Now I read up about Soriano life for the first part and discovered he was a fan of Philip Marlowe,  so much that he was a character in his first novel. This is a homage to those sort of streets that Chandler wrote about in his books. Rocha and Anders are, like Marlowe more complex characters than they appear, Rocha, the boxer is not the cleverest person but wants to fall in love and settle down and escape the past in a way.Andres is the clever one her a tango singer that wants to a help his friend ending up as a pulp due to the fight. This is a classic buddy story but also set to the backdrop and politics of the country at the time. When the country was run by the military, this was also just after the defeat in the Falklands

Bodies of summer by martin Felipe Castagnet

Bodies of Summer by Martin Felipe Castagnet

Argentinean literature

Original title – Los Cuerpos del Verano

Translator – Frances Riddle

Source – personnel copy

I just had another new talent from Argentina latest book arrive today Rodrigo Fresan The invented part an epic new novel to go along sidfe this slim yet thoughtful novella by Martin Felipe Castagnet shows that they are still producing great writers , this was Castagnet’s debut novel it won for young latin american literature when it came out. He is also the editor of The Buenos Aires review his books have also been translated into french and Hebrew.

When I went through the process of entering into flotation, my body was destroyed. At that time they hadn’t yet figured out how to conserve bodies and burn people into new ones.The technological advances we’ve seen since then have been astonishing. First mothers began to put their children on the waiting lists for new bodies . Just in case they were to die in an accident .Bodies came to be seen as a valuable natural resource .

One can just imagine what happens when this could become a reality not a novella !!

This is set in a distant future , in Argentina where they have managed to perfect capturing in computers the soul of the dying . this is story of Ramiro who has got his family to bring him back to life from the net  and floatation as they call it  , to sort out something from his past. Now the only body his family could find to upload the mind of one of the first souls to be saved on the net is that of a fat over weight middle-aged woman , which leads to a strange feeling in Ramiro as he feels the shape of his new body for the first time  and finds parts missing from it . But also he has n’t seen from the net world how much quicker and darker the world has gone. We also see even thou he has a different body and time has flown Ramiro still has a number of axes to grind. This is a future where the world isn’t limited by bodies anymore.

I still haven’t found my former best friend . I still haven’t discovered what happened to my wife. I can find any of her descendants. Teo doesn’t recognize me. I feel useless in my own home. My desire drives me forward , but I get frustrated when my desire can’t be fulfilled. To think that for decades I missed pain, and now that I’m back I’m incapable of feeling it .

Ramiro struggle to get use to the world he has missed and his new body !!

I am not a huge sci-fi fan but this isn’t Heavy sci-fi it use the future more as a way to question important questions about what our souls are , the body or the mind can the mind leave the body and return. I was reminded in some ways of Cronenberg films this is a dark view of the future where souls drift on the net and sometimes it is hard to tell who is in the body that is facing you .As it is hard to decide where you are as we see in the family his daughter was on the net with him and her brother and his son still lives in the real world.Even when brought back he finds it hard to escape the net Ramiro . This is like a dark side of the old kids tv series where joe of Joe 90 could take the mind of many people to save the day  and be an avatar like the bodies in this book can be used for revenge and death and so much more !!!

 

 

Fever dream by Samanta Schweblin

 

Fever dream by Samanta Schweblin

Argentinean fiction

Original title – , Distancia de rescate

Translator – Megan Mcdowell

Source – Personal copy

Now this was the first book I read after the longlist came out as it was the one we may have called in I feel if it hadn’t made the longlist. Samanta is another from the granta list of the best Spanish language writers under 35 that came out a few years ago , I wish they would do a few more of these books for other languages that list has produced some of the best books I have read over the last few years and Samanta is one of the names of that list I had want to try long before I actually got to this book .

They’re like worms

What kind of worms ?

like worms , all over

It’s the boy who’s talking , murmuring into my ear. I am the one asking questions.

Worms in the body ?

Yes, in the body

Earthworms ?

No, another kind of worms

It’s dark and I can’t see.The sheets are rough, they bunched up under my body. I can’t move , but I am talking .

The opening lines leave the question why is the sheet rough on Amanda is she even alive ?

The english title is maybe more to the point of what this book is the spanish title means rescue distance , which in itself is a question where as the english title is Fever dream and that is just what we have here . Two people in a hospital room the first Amanda she lies waking from a fever or in a fever and beside her is a boy , not her son David he is trying to guide her in his own young way , she talks of worms around her he gets he to try to rec all what exactly happened to get them there .Then earlier Amanda in her dream talks to Carla about her son that fell ill six years earlier Also called David .We also see a bleak land that of Patagonia , this land where the Gauchos still farm like they did years ago but is this also a sign of how the world she lives in has changed recently ? Amanda story is one that has very few answers to us as the reader more questions which even thou this book is only 150 short pages it has me two weeks later think about what it is all about ,

How can it not be ? That’s the story we need to understand

No , that’s not the story, it has nothing to do with the exact moment. Don’t get distracted.

I need to measure the danger, other wise it’s hard to calculate the rescue distance . The same way I surveyed the house and its surroundings when we arrived, now I need to see the green house, understand its gravity .

When did you start to measure this rescue distance ?

It’s something I inherited from my mother. “I want you close ” she’d say to me . “let’s stay within rescue distance .”

The spanish title explained her in a detached conversation from Amanda .

This is a very unsettling book that has echos of so many thinks , I do wonder myself if it is just one person with two voices , is David a soul that Amanda meet when she was at the hospital before with her own child , like the landscape she lives in is he a shepherd to guide either one way or the other to the light of life or to the light of being with a daughter she may have lost . Maybe this is like the sixth sense or the film the passenger where those that are dead never really accepted  that they are like Bruce Willis or Anne Hathway in both those films need to be guided to the other side . The book to me has a feel of Beckett in a way Amanda and David detatched voices remind me somewhat of Vladmir and Estragon waiting in a room somewhat in limbo trying to get from one place but waaiting for some to guide them. Amanda voice at times remind me of the way Beckett wrote in something like Not I her life tumbles out of her at a great speed , this is wonderfully drawn out in Mcdowell’s translation . For me this will make the shortlist and may just make our shadow shortlist.

Wakolda by Lucia Puenzo

 

Wakolda by Lucia Puenzo

Argentinean fiction

Original title – Wakolda

Translator – David William Foster

Source – Library book

Well I said the next stop of my woman in translation journey would be Argentina. Lucia Puenzo was part of the Granta best young Spanish writers edition a few years ago. She has won number of awards for her film work, she is a film maker as well as a writer. This novel is also a film she made with the english title the German Doctor, which was a feature at Cannes film festival when it came out . This strangely is also the second novel I have read this year about germans in Latin american after the second world war.  the other being Affections by Rodrigo Hasbun.

That day, mixture of sodium cholride and magnesium nitrate, injected with infinite patience into each eyeball, would change forever the course of science. The mass sterilization, the vivisections, the frustated attempts to change skin and hair colour using subcutaneous injection and even the night on which he thought he had finally succeeded in joining the veins of two twins to create a Siamese twins, only to find them a few hours later gasping like fish out of water – all his failures would be forgotten if he could manage to change the colour of the eyes of this child

The opening lines a chilling look at the man and what he did in the past !

As I said in the first paragraph the book revolves around an escape German from the second world war in this case it is a more famous German than in Rodrigo Hasbun book the escaped german in this story is Josef Mengele himself the man known as the angel  of death during his time as a doctor at the Auschwitz death camp . This is 1960 and Jose has settled in Bariloche a place that a number of Nazis have lived since the war in relative quiet from the rest of the world . Jose wants to carry on his work , that of trying to find the perfect human being. This leads him to a family that have all the qualities he is looking for except their daughter Lilith who has a growth defect . Add to that her mother is now expecting twins and the doctor had previously worked with twins in Auschwitz where he sewed two together like siamese twins to see what happen, but in this case he is fighting to keep them alive as the net is closing around him. We see most of the action through the eyes of the young girl who has a doll called Wakolda that Jose gave here.

Her father occupied the following pages , alongside her brothers , alongside her brothers, also surrounded by numbers and measurements.

she read Homo siriacus

she came last

Her illustration had more details than the others: measurements of almost all her bones, the circumference of her head notations in German, number and more numbers, calculations along with results, a list 0f illnesses … feeling a lump in the pit of her stomach, she gathered up the arms and legs of her doll. She left the dagger , the ring and the notebook where she’d found them. she climbed out the window after making sure that everything was exactly as she’d found it .

Jose notes about lilith  she finds in his office

This book is a clever take on fact and fiction Josef Mengele did spend time in Argentina after the war. This is imaging what would have happened had he decide to hide and carry on what he did it is a story of what is right and wrong in Ethics and how far people will go in the pursuit of perfection. Again as I have found in a number of latin american novel in recent years is the use of the child narrator from Andres Neuman to Marcelo Figueras .Lilith would have died in Auschwitz but here she has grabbed Jose by why she is here as part of what is otherwise a perfect aryan family what is the cause of her in this perfect family.

Have you a favourite novel about nazis on the run ?

An episode in the life of a landscape painter by Cesar Aira

An episode in the life of a landscape painter by Cesar Aira

Argentinean fiction

Original title – Un episodio en la vida del pintor viajero

Translator – Chris Andrews

Source – personnel copy

I can’t believe I hadn’t till now cover Cesar Aira on the blog ,I have a few of his books and Thought I had reviewed one before now well  as I just missed the end of Spanish lit month being off work on holiday I need to catch up so here we are Cesar Aira Has lived in Buenos Aires since 1967, he is a prolific writer his books tend to be short but he has been writing them at the rate of two to three a year for a number of years a number of his works have been translated into english. This was first published by New directions but later in a three vol version from Penguin mine i the new direction edition.

Rugendas was a genre painter. His genre was the physiognomy of nature, based on a procedure invented by Humboldt. The great naturalist was the father of a discipline that virtually died with him: Erdtheroie or la physique du monde, a kind of artistic geography, an aesthetic understanding of the world, a science of landscape. Alexander Von Humboldt (1769-1859) was an all-embracing scholar, perhaps the last of his kind:his aim was to apprehend the world in its totality

Humboldt was the last of the gentlemen scholars of the great age of discovery and in the eyes of someone like Rugendas a hero .

This is the tale of two real life characters that did meet in real life . But this is an episode that never happened except in Cesar Aira mind. The two characters are Johann Moritz Rugendas , he was one of the best landscape painters of his time known for his work on expeditions. He has been told by the famous explorer Alexander Von Humboldt  to go back to Latin american and record the nature and Landscapes around Chile and Argentina .This is a man driven by his own history his grandfather also a renowned painter of battle scenes . He is driven to record nature at its worst in his painting this is what leads to an event that leaves him scarred after a lightning strike in the Pampas whilst he is painting a scene  and struggling to recover he is a changed man.

They hurried on and , as they approached, saw him move yet remain face down, as if kissing the earth; the flicker of hope this aroused was quenched when they realized tat he was not moving himself, but being dragged by the horse’s blithe little browsing steps. They dismounted, took his foot from the stirrup and turned him over.. The horror struck them dumb. Rugendas’s face was a swollen, bloody mass; the bone of his forehead was exposed and strips of skin hung over his eyes.The distinctive aquiline form of his Augsburg nose was unrecognizable, and his lips, split and spread apart, revealed his teeth, all miraculously intact .

After the lightening strike he is never the same man as before

The book harks back to an age of adventure and a time when painters could be at the forefront of the new world that were being uncovered and in Rugendas Aira has chosen a painter that was considered the best documentary painter.He also had a life worthy of a novel on his return to Latin America after his meeting with Von Humboldt to do a full work on latin america which is where this novel is set , but he also later got involved in a coup in Mexico . This is a gem of a book at 87 pages long it is a perfect summer evening .

Have you a favourite book about Artists ?

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