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

download

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

LONELY HEARTS CLUB

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 ?

 

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