A cup of rage by Raduan Nassar

A cup of rage by Raduan Nassar

Brazilian Fiction

Original title – Um Copo de Colera

Translator – Stefan Tobler

Source – Personnel copy

Now this may be the oddest title on the first Man booker international longlist as it is hard to place is it a long short story a short Novella or something else this book is under fifty pages long. I had just the week before the longlist had been announced looked for this title on my local Library system but had only found the other book penguin had brought out by the Brazilian writer Raduan Nassar. He is a now a farmer retired. He wrote the two books mentioned and worked in news papers as an editor. Then in 1984 he gave up the writing as he had bored with it to become a farmer.

My coming nakedness and soon I heard her breathing in deeply, over by the chair, where she had perhaps already given in to her desperation, struggling to take off her clothes, getting her finger caught in the straps slipping down her arm, and I , still faking , knew that all of that was real, oh how I knew her nightmarish obsession for feet, and for my feet in particular, their firm step and well shaped form, a little bony around the toes perhaps and nervously marked with veins and tendons on the instep, though they hadn’t lost the shy manner of a tender root.

Early on in bed the man and woman start getting frisky and he remarks how she likes his feet.

Now it is strange he choose to be a farmer as this is the setting for this most unusual story told in a classic stream of consciousness  it is told from the point of view of an older man as he awakes starts his day making love to his younger wife. He then is sidetracked by some ants and other things in the house which leads to an argument between the two . The wife then heads out . Now that is it a lot to fit in under fifty pages . I think this is one over the next few year I will read and reread and still wonder every time I do so .

Under the shower I let her hands slide over my body, and her hands were inexhaustible, and they ran searchingly through all the foam, and they came and went tirelessly, and our soaked bodies now and again pressed against each other so that her hands could reach my back in an embrace, and I enjoyed all this movement, sinuous and vague, that provoked sudden, hidden jolts, and seeing that those hands were already taking advantage of my darkest corners – even combing through the threads at the badly stitched seam of the groin (and secretly weighing the soapy packet of my member) – I said ‘wash my head, I’m in a hurry’, and then, pulling me out from under the stream of water, her hands immediately penetrated my hair, rubbing firmly with her fingers, massaging my scalp with her nails, scratching my nape in a way that sent me crazy, to my core

And after the bed they meet in the shower he manages to get the feeling just right I feel .

The fact I was already looking into reading Nassar, means I felt he was a writer I would enjoy. Nick Lezzard also wetted my appetitie in his review mention Thomas Bernhard, but for me the only real connection to him was the fact that he like Bernhard isn’t very keen on a full stop. The whole story is like one long thought in the mind of the older man. No for me I was reminded of the classic modernist piece like Joyce’s Ulysses which in the sex here you can see in the later passages of Joyce’s piece. A relationship not working or problems reminded me of Woolf’s Mrs Dallowway and of course like both these works the action is set over the course of one day . Now that isn’t to say this hasn’t connection to other writers in Latin america of course Lispector a fellow Brazilian and also a writer using Modernist ticks in her writing . I was also reminded of one of my favourite Cuban writers Infante three trapped tigers like this is set over a day and has a similar rhythmic feel to the prose. Now that is enough praise my main problem was what is this it is like a clip from a great novel or a long-lost short story from a great collection . I wanted more than this as wonderful as it is it is like going for a meal and leaving after a wonderful starter if you know what I mean . Stefan piece in the independent about meeting him is very interesting . Now for Man booker I thing this will probably make shortlist as it is a challenging read and different to anything about at the moment .

Have you read this book or ancient tillage ?

 

The passion according to G.H by Clarice Lispector

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The passion according to G.H by Clarice Lispector

Brazilian fiction

Original title – A Paixão segundo G.H.

Translator – Idra Novey

Source – personnel copy

When you ate,
I saw your eyelashes.
Saw them shake like
wind on rushes.

In the cornfield,
when she called me

Moths surround me.
Thought they’d drown me.

And I miss your precious heart.

Dried rose petals —
redbrown circles —
framed your eyes and
stained your knuckles.

I choose this lyric from Joanna Newsom for those first two-lines anyone that read this book will know what I mean ,also  Joanna Newsom new album out soon

A couple of years ago Amanda brought me two Lispector Near to the wild heart and hour of the star , I read Near to the wild heart straight away loved it that much , I went out a few days later and brought this the another of the four Lispector books penguin had brought out at the time .So with the chance to read her collected short stories that are coming out soon .Lispector was a brazilian writer , she was born in Ukraine her family came to Brazil and then when she married she travelled the world with her husband whom was a diplomat ,before returning to Brazil and began writing , this book was midway in her career .

That was when  the cockroach began to emerge .

First the heralding quiver of its antennae .

Then , behind those dry stands , the reluctant body started to emerge until nearly all of it reached the opening of the wardrobe door .

It was brown , it hesitant as if of enormus wieght .It was now almost entirely visible

The roach appears to G.H

Well where does one start with this book ? it’s a monologue told by a women , this woman is the same one as the G.H of the title . G.H has entered her maid’s room , clean clinical white room , in which she sees this black cockroach after finding it in the wardrobe .She then decides to kill the roach , setting of a shocking reaction with in G.H herself as she watches the insect die cause a strange nightmare like state in her as she questions  what she did . All this happened the day before and G.h is reflecting on what happened .

Because inside myself I saw what hell is like .

Hell is the mouth that bites and eats the living flesh with its blood , and the one being eaten howls with delight in his eye: hell is pain as delight of the matter , and with the laughter of delight , the tears run in pain .And the tear comes from the laughter of pain is the opposite of redemption .I was seeing the inexorability of the roach with its ritual mask .

G.H later in the book seems to drift into a spirit world of her own .

Now a brief description for this is one from the heart of modernism like a distant cousin to the world of Virginia Woolf , it is easy to see why the two are often mentioned in the same breath .Like Mrs Dalloway Woolf’s book , this takes place of the course of a day . Woolf also touched in other books like this does on mental health issues , you feel G.H is a woman who has more to her than we are told and certain of her actions within this book lead you to think , she may have been in the middle of a breakdown the day she is describing .This book shows why we maybe need more woman in translation to find the effect of woman writing in english has had on female writers around the world we often miss the influence of english writers but I feel in Lispector it is clear to see how drawn she must have been as a writer to the Modernist movement , she was writing in the 60’s so would be able to have read the great voices of modernism .It is easy to see G.H as a character as a woman trying to break maybe the female bonds as the act she does cause her to think why she does it ? A book that will leave you reeling for a good while after you put it down . I can’t wait to read her short stories now , the complete collection will include all eight collections she wrote in her lifetime .

Have you read Lispector ?

Blood-drenched beard by Daniel Galera

blood drenched beard cover

Blood-drenched beard by Daniel Galera

Brazilian fiction

Original title – Barba ensopada de sangue

Translator – Alison Entrekin

Source – review copy

I cannot walk through the suburbs in the solitude of the night without thinking that the night pleases us because it suppresses idle details, just as our memory does.”

Jorge Luis Borges  source here 

Daniel Galera was on the recent Granta list of best Brazilian writers from last year .Born on Sao Paulo but grew up in the city of Porto Alegre the same city as Luís Fernando Veríssimo, comes from .Daniel Galera  works as a writer and translator and is considered one of the best Brazilian writers at using the internet for his writing ,he found his own publishing house and also has contribute to numerous online publications .He has also won the Machado De Assis prize .

What’s that face ? asks his father .

It’s an old joke .He gives his usual answer with the barest hint of a smile .

The only one I’ve got

The first hint at the main characters face blindness condition .

Well Blood drenched beard is one of those books that reminds me why I love translation so much, a crime novel that breaks the mould and is more postmodern than crime  .A man who is unnamed in the book is drawn back to the seaside town that his grandfather lived in ,after his own father commits suicide.His is accompanied by his fathers old dog .Now this man is trying to discover his families past ,but has a problem a rare condition that means he can’t remember people after meet them because he can’t remember faces .So he is forced to remember actions and places to remember people .SO what we see through his eyes is the world in the pieces he remembers as he tries to discover who killed his grandfather .The grandfather died in a blackout ,hence the title of the book the lights went up the grandfather was drenched in blood . Will he find the killer ?

Back then there wasn’t a police station in Garopaba ,says the officer .If there was any kind of inquiry,the files would be in Laguna .But I doubt it .That was a long time ago .I’m from here ,born and bred ,my parents and grandparents and great-grandparents are from here and I’ve never heard of him .People remember the ones who die .

He talks to the local policeman ,but is what he says the truth or a lie ?

Blood-drenched beard is a clever take on the quest novel the man returning home on a quest .Now if you take out the main thing that most crime novels have and that is the facial identification and expressions  .So what we get is the smaller details how people move there gestures and how he sees these through her eyes . Add to that the setting the small coastal town of Garopaba a small town with its own past ,myths and surreal nature ,at times I was reminded of Marquez world .I’ve read Casares the Argentinian writers take on the crime novel and was reminded at times in this book of the way he wrote .A town with secrets and a family past unravelling makes this a real page turner .Do you have a favourite crime novel that isn’t a crime novel really ?

Near to the wild heart by Clarice Lispector

Near to the wild heart

Near to the wild heart by Clarice Lispector

Brazilian fiction

Original Title –  Perto do coração selvagem

Translator – Alison Entrekin

Source – personnel copy

 

He was alone. He was unheeded, happy, and near to the wild heart of life. He was alone and young and wilful and wildhearted, alone amid a waste of wild air and brackish waters and the seaharvest of shells and tangle and veiled grey sunlight.”
― James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man via goodreads also inspired the title for this book .

Well it’s nearly here the world cup in Brazil ,so for the next couple of post I’ll be reviewing a couple of Brazilian ,this the first is a cornerstone of Brazilian literature from the most well-known writer of her generation Clarrice Lispector .I had long wanted to read Lispector but inertially when I started blogging ,there wasn’t any in my library system ,then New directions brought out this and four others in us and in Uk on import but then heard Penguin was doing a uk version  ,that I am reading in the Uk penguin Editions .Clarice Lispector was born in Russia and with her family escaped the aftermath of world war one ,the family settled in Brazil .She was studying and working as a journalist on the side when she wrote this book her debut novel .It was translated once before but this is the latest translation from 2012 .

“Daddy , what shall I do ?”

“I already told you : go play and leave me be !”

“But I’ve played ,I swear ”

Her father laughed

“But there’s no end to playing …”

“Yes there is >”

“Make up another game ”

I thought this conversation when I was looking after my nieces just yesterday , kids hey !

 

So near to the wild heart is a modernist piece of fiction (I know some people cringe at that word , but for me it always seem to me something challenging or innovative ) .The book is the story of Joana ,her life is told in snippets in the stream of consciousness style ,from her as a youngster, whom is  beguiled with her father telling herself poems about him ,through growing up temper tantrums ,her marriage to a man with a wandering eye , the book has an episodic feel at times as we jump in and out of Joana’s life the good ,the bad .She is called a strange creature by family members and through her thoughts and emotions  as we read them comes across a  a women ill at ease and very complexed .

The dense ,dark night was cut down the middle split into two black blocks of sleep .Where was she ? Between the piece s, looking at them (the one she had already slept and the one had yet to sleep ) isolated in the timeless and spaceless in an empty gap .This stretch would be subtracted from her years of life .

I felt this could have easily come from Marquez the feel of her words remind me of his descriptions and magic realism .

Now this just knocked me back ,I still can’t believe she was 23 when she wrote this book ,especially in the passages when Joana is older  married .Her writing mixes, the best of European modernism but with a shot of Latin american Heat and Humidity at times ,its hard to describe yes of course  its stream of consciousness but that is banded about so much but the book for me  evokes ,James Joyce ,at times the early Joana  parts of her life reminds me of Stephen Dedalus in a portrait of artist as a young man  describing his childhood ,but later on I felt more of Virginia Woolf, Lispector does a similar thing to Woolf in books like Miss Dalloway when she captures Joana disappoint in her marriage and husband .I choose this of the two Lispector books my wife brought me the other being Hour of the star ,but now I feel maybe I want to read her books in order to she her development as a writer .A must for fans of a strong female voice ,Modernism and wanting during the world cup to discover a bit about Brazil and its culture .

Have you read Lispector ?

Diary of the fall by Michel Laub

Diary of the fall by Michel Laub

Diary of the fall by Michel Laub

Brazilian fiction

Orginial title – Diário da queda

Translator – Magaret Jull Costa

Source -review copy

“Any life is made up of a single moment, the moment in which a man finds out, once and for all, who he is.” Jorge Luis Borges

Now I have been saying for a while on twitter Brazil is going to be the next big breaking place to read books from ,with the Granta Twenty best young novelist from there last year and the world cup and Olympics both happening soon all eyes will be on the world’s seventh largest economy  .So this is one of two books from Brazil by bigger publishers I’ve been sent since the turn of the year .Michel Laub the writer of this book was on the Granta list ,he was born in Porto Alegre and lives in Sao Paulo ,this is his fifth novel and the first to be translated to English .

In the final years of his life , my grandfather spent the whole day in his study .Only after he died did we find out what he had been doing there , notebooks and more notebooks filled with tiny writing , and only when I read what he had written did I finally understand what he had been through .

The notes of the grandfather found after he died .

 

So Diary of the fall reminded me so much style wise of HHhH it follows that choppy short paragraph style that made HHhH one of those books that you read in a sitting or two .The book is in a form of a Diaries and notes  ,undated but the story moves on as we read passage by Passage ,The story is told by A grandson and involves him ,his father memories  and Grandfather guilt of being a survivor .The story is almost a three ages of man story but things are very twisted ,The narrator the grandson is looking back on an incident that happened when he was at school ,how it has affect him this incident is a similar starting point to novel the slap When he was at school that change one of his fellow pupils life forever  .Then there is the father a clever man but in the process of losing his memory and memories to Alzheimer’s  try to capture them all in the notes he writes .Then there is the Grandfather he survived Auschwitz and is racked with guilt about what happens and is trying to forget by writing it .

The majority of Alzheimer’s patients are aged eight or over .My father belongs to the three per cent or so aged between sixty and seventy-five ,and to the minority whose symptoms are diagnosed at a relatively early stage

His father finds out when he has chanced to remember his life before like the sands of time it runs out of him .

 

 

The big question in this book is why do we write ,to work out ? ,to remember or to forget .What our memories do they make us what we are ? As with the quote at the start of the review this book is made of a point when a man became a man or a point when a man lose being a man or when as Primo Levi said  in his poem survivor

Stand back,

leave me alone,

submerged people,

Go away.

I haven’t dispossessed anyone,

Haven’t usurped anyone’s bread.

No one died in my place. No one. Go back into your mist. It’s not my fault if I live and breathe, Eat,

drink, sleep and put on clothes. Levi is mention by the Grandfather As a fellow survivor he too try’s to find words but also use Levi’s words to try to work out what happened there to him and those he knew .I said this was a Story of three ages of man but in one family  but this is three ages of man if written by Francis bacon another person who loved three imagines in his many triptych’s in each way maybe these are all version of his paintings the grandfather a screaming pope trying to find a way out .The father is one of those blurred faces trying to remember his face and who he is at the same time .and the son is Christ held by what he did in the past .I loved this one I look forward to starting my next novel from Brazil and seeing where that one takes me

Have you a favourite Brazilian novel ?

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