The children by Carolina Sanin

The children by Carolina Sanin

Colombian Fiction

Original title – Los niños

Translator – Nick Caistor

Source – review copy

When I started the blog ,I be hard pushed to have name more than one writer from Columbia that wasn’t Marquez but in the years in between we have seen a wave of new writers from Columbia Rosero , Vasquez and Gamboa .Now here is another name to add to that list . This is her first book to appear in English and her second novel she has taught in New york hispanic studies and is considered a rising talent .

Laura Romero heard that the woman  who watched the cars outside the supermarket was offering her a child. She heard her say “I’ll keep a child for you “. But Laura was not sure whether the woman really did watch the cars. She knew that when she finished her shopping , she gave her some coins as if to pay, and that her car had never gone missing . Maybe that was because she only left it there during daylight and when there were lots of people about , but it was also possible that the woman had some influence over the car thieves.That she was their mother , for example

Before Fidel arrives Laura misses what she said at the supermarket.

The children is one of those books that is hard to put in a category. The story Follows Laura after she is going to the supermarket one day and like other days she is met by a beggar woman , but is ask if she wants her a child thinking no more of it she gives her some money .But later that night a boy appears outside her house .The boy fidel know nothing other than his six years old . So she sets off to find out about this boy. Laura herself is a strange character as the story unfold she has money from her families salt mines  , she works as a housekeeper as she like to clean and sort the  houses she works in  a strange OCD, but doesn’t need the money . She is reading Moby Dick maybe the boy is her Moby Dick as he seems to have come from nowhere and maybe at points he has trance like fits you wonder is he real or maybe like the whale in the mind of the crew a ghost that isn’t real just in Laura’s eyes in Moby Dick a metaphor for something else .Then we she Laura battling the bureaucracy in what is a Kafka like nightmare  race to find out about Fidel  as she sees how slow the wheels turn.

Brus became aware of Fidel’s existence before she did it was shortly before midnight on Saturday , and laura had just filled the hot-water bottle she took to bed with her.The dog began to bark and then howl, and in between could be heard sobs that  seemed to have been learned by heart, as if they came  from a child who knows he is too big to still be crying like that . Laura titled her head that way Brus did when se asked him something , and realised that the sound was coming from the street, on the right-hand side of the building as you looked out. She went onto the balcony . A boy was looking up from the pavement, three storeys down. As soon as he saw her appear , he stopped crying

Fidel appeared and was noticed by her dog Brus .

This is one of those novels that leaves you with more questions than answers, much in the vain of a number of latin American novel particular Evelio Rosero .But also a framing of a lost child or ghost child that has frequently appeared in literature . Also a connection between a woman and a child that isn’t her child this is a theme that appeared in Fever Dream. Add to that Laura is reading Moby Dick a book itself that is about obsession and ghosts. This is a clever novella that like Fever dream from this years Man booker shows the strength of latin american fiction.

 

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Reputations by Juan Gabriel Vasquez

 

Reputations

Reputations by Juan Gabriel Vasquez

 

Colombian fiction

Original title – Las reputaciones

Translator – Anne McLean

Source – Library edition

last month I decide I may need pick a few books from the last year that may be in the Man booker list that I hadn’t got to near the top of the list was this the latest from Juan Gabriel Vasquez . Whom I have reviewed on the blog twice before with The sound of things falling and the secret history of Costaguna . The later was on the old IFFP list as well as his debut novel so it is a good chance that he may make it three times on the list. Juan Gabriel Vasquez Is considered one of the great living Latin American writers , his books have been on numerous list of the best books of recent times. He also writes a weekly column for a Colombian newspaper .

What about Javier mallarino ?

The bootblack took a second to realize the question was directed at him. “Sir?”

“Javier Mallarino.Do you know who he is ?”

“The guy who does the cartoons for the newspaper”,the man said.”but he doesn’t come around here any more. he got tired of Bogota, that’s what I was told. he’s been living out-of-town for ages now, up in the mountains

Mallarine ask the bootblack if he knows who he is without knowing he is him so to speak .

Reputatuons is a another slice of Colombian world , this time he use the life of a political cartoonist , One imagines to be in the position that Javier Mallarino is where we meet him he is on his way to the Grand Teatro Colon that evening. We meet him as he is wandering Bogata before this very prestigious evening the first part of the book sees him in this wandering seeing how he went from a serious artist at the beginning into taking up the pen and ink and doing Political caricatures somehow managing to avoid getting into trouble along the way  and building a following a sort of Latin American  Steve Bell is what came to my mind. But as he spends the evening in Glory he is leaving the grand Tearto colon when we meet a young woman a journalist he thinks but she is wanting him to admit to an incident he observed that happened at the very beginning of his life happened when she was maybe attacked by a leading figure in the  political life and this girl was also a friend of his own daughter so the great man has to face a dark secret in his past.

If that were the case, the deterioration could not be less opportune, for Samanta Leal, from whose face a little girl had vanished, was urgently asking him to remember that little girl and her visit to this house in the mountains in July of 1982, and not just that, but she was also asking him to remember the circumstances of that long-ago visit, the names and distinguishing marks of those present that afternoon, everything mallrino saw and heard

He thought she is a journalist to this point when she reminds him of this incident in the past .

I felt this is a clever book to bring out now in a way , how many secrets from the past and stars from the past have had very dark secrets like in the book or even dark Jimmy Saville is one that came straight to my mind when I read this and how power can hide the truth or make other disbelieves the truth about certain people. I also love the choice of political cartoonist a job which at some points in Columbia would have been a short life job! We also want to know what happened that evening when these two seven-year old got drunk and slept was it a dream or real. This is another question do others seek fame from telling stories about other why do it on this evening ! A real story of the modern age when secrets and reputations seem to be fragile in the public eye and the past people have now seem to catch them up more than before !

Good offices by Evelio Rosero the 500th translation review

Good offices BY Evelio Rosero

Good Offices by Eveilo Rosero

Columbian Fiction

Original title – Los Alumerzos

TRanslator – Anne McLean and Anna Milsom

Source – review copy

 

“The Sick Bed Of Cuchulainn”

McCormack and Richard Tauber are singing by the bed
There’s a glass of punch below your feet and an angel at your head
There’s devils on each side of you with bottles in their hands
You need one more drop of poison and you’ll dream of foreign lands

When you pissed yourself in Frankfurt and got syph down in Cologne
And you heard the rattling death trains as you lay there all alone
Frank Ryan brought you whiskey in a brothel in Madrid
And you decked some fucking blackshirt who was curing all the Yids
At the sick bed of Cuchulainn we’ll kneel and say a prayer
And the ghosts are rattling at the door and the devil’s in the chair

This pogues song reminded me of the debauchery in the book .

Well been mulling over what to pick to be the 500th translated title on this blog I passed 500 reviews a while ago . So after a nudge on twitter .I choose a Maclehose press title , a publisher that in a way has been around as long as this blog and strangely was the first that decide to send me copies of their books to review . So as the first title for this Spanish lit month I’ve chosen a former IFFP winning writer .Evelio Rosero is a Columbian writer and Journalist , he has written nine novels so far . I love his motto ” A heart that feels , Eyes that see” so true of every great writer .

Of indefinable age , Father Matamoros – Reverend Father San Jose Matamoros del Palacio – was indeed a rare bird in the parish church , grey and featherless , come from heavens know where . He wore dark clothes and a grey turtleneck sweater instead of a dog collar ; his jacket looked borrowed , it was too big for him : his round toed school shoes , almost black , were scuffed and the soles were gone , the laces white ; he wore square glasses , one lens cracked down the middle , one arm mended with a dirty strip of sticking plaster .

Would you trust this man ?

Good Offices is a story of two worlds and the institution that connects them in Columbia . The story follows two events the first is the meal. That a Father Almida is going to with a rich benefactor to his church . His church is one that deals with the street folk of the city .Now back at his church , he has given the service to an old drunken Vicar Father Matamoros to run things at his church  a church with a rota of visitors street folks , prostitutes and the blind each have their day in the week . Now things back at the church descend into a drunken feast as the events going on are observed by the hunchback Tancredo as he joins Matamoros in the drunken party to end all parties .All this is being viewed  The Lillas are the old women and had prepared the meal for him but didn’t see what was coming .

Father San Jose’s mass was no ordinary Mass .

To the surprise and delight of the congregation that evening , it turned out to be a sung mass . Who could have imagined that father Matamoros beside bringing his own water to the altar, would turn out to be a perfect cantor

Well the night is young  here !

I reread this book in a day after not getting to review it when it came out a couple of  years ago .I enjoyed it at the time but in this reread I really got the humour the satire side of the book , a descent into madness .I love the contrast between the drunk goings on and the posh meal . Also the way it shows the two worlds in this country the wealth and the poverty .Mamatmoros is like a Latin american extra from father Ted a drunken Latin American Father Jack , but this also has echos of Graham Greene in a way that it exposes the catholic church and the way it runs in the church .The original title maybe suit the book dinners as it is a book about contrasts in the way it unfolds the two dinners in two worlds that maybe have this one connection the church .I enjoyed this if I get chance I will be reviewing his latest book later this month on the blog .

Have you a favourite novel that involves the church ?

Chronicle of a death foretold by Gabriel Garcia marquez

Chronicle of a death foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Columbian fiction

Original title Crónica de una muerte anunciada

translator – Gregory Rabassa

source – personnel copy

 

When you’re sad and when you’re lonely
And you haven’t got a friend
Just remember that death is not the end

And all that you held sacred
Falls down and does not mend
Just remember that death is not the end
Not the end, not the end
Just remember that death is not the end

When you’re standing on the crossroads
That you cannot comprehend
Just remember that death is not the end

Nick cave version of death is not the end rather apt as death is not the end or the beginning of this book .

Well this is the last but one  of  the Marquez books I read back in July for marquez reading week .I choose this book for the week as it out of all of Marquez’s works of fiction , because it seemed to mix both his fiction and his journalistic style of writing as it recounts a murder in Small town of Santiago Nasar  .

Nor did Santiago nasar recognize the omen .He had sleep little and poorly , without getting undressed,and he woke up with a headache and a sediment of copper stirrup on his palate ,and he interpeted them as the natural havoc of wedding revels that had gone on until after midnight .

The morning after and in a way the morning before so to speak .

 

The chronicle of a death foretold as I said above is different in some ways to his other fiction as it is told in a more formal journalistic style of writing ,the story is of the killing of Santiago nasar , whom runs a successful ranch ,which he had inheirted father and still lives there with his mother and their servants ,we meet him on the day his is going to die .On this day as well a wedding is taking place the wedding of Angela Vicario ,she is due to marry a man who has come to find a bride ,find a virgin bride indeed ,so when after the wedding hew finds his new bride has already been with a man ,she is returned to her family and her brothers try to find out how has been with their sister …. Any way Angela who wasn’t in love with the man she was due marry at the time but had fallen for him during that day ,she wrote to the man Bayardo san Roman everyday for the following seventeen years at which point he returns with all these letters but he hasn’t ever open one ,of course in true Marquez style the book ends with the actual killing .Meanwhile her two brothers have had to leave town .

Bayardo San roman , the man who had given back his bride , had come for the first time in August of the year before : six months before the wedding .He arrived on the weekly boat with some saddlebags decorated with silver that matched the buckle of his belt and the rings of his boots .He was was around thrity years old

Bayardo arrived looking for a bride .

 

Well I said that this wasn’t like his other books when I choose it but actually after I had read it I  found many traits in this story that we have seen in his other books , families and honour are a recurring theme in his books from 100 years of solitude onwards .Lost love and longing for a former lover well enough said I think this has been in most of Marquez;s fiction Angela’s longing is maybe different as it is a women longing a man where as in most of the other books it is a man longing for the women .Then there is part of this book that harks to his other career as a journalist in the way the killing is recounted ,it has a crime report feel at times to it .Then we have the way the story is told in a non linear style that i have encountered in other books by Marquez where the story is a Rubik’s cube you don’t fully see the story till you make the last move the same is true of this book you don’t fully get this till the last pages .

have you read this Marquez ?

The story of a shipwrecked sailor by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

shipwreck sailor

The story of a shipwrecked sailor by Gabriel Garcia Marquez 

Columbian non fiction 

Original title – Relato de un náufrago

Translator – Randolph Hogan 

Source personnel copy 

Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

From rime of the ancient mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge  source

Well this is a book hung over from Spanish literature month that I didn’t get time to review ,which is a real shame as I had want to include the two non fiction books I had read by Marquez for Spanish literature month  .Marquez worked as a journalist most of his life .He started as a journalist he was a member of the Barranquilla group a group of Journalist ,philosophers and writers based in the city of Barranquilla  in Columbia .This group was also featured in his novel one hundred years of solitude .Now to this book based on the true story of a Columbian sailor .

At six o’clock the destroyer began pitching violently .Luis Rengifo was awake one bunk below me .

“Fatso ” he asked me ,”Haven’t you gotten sick yet ? ”

I said no ,but I admitted I was worried .Rengifo ,who as I said was an engineer -very studious and a good seaman explained why it was unlikely that something could happen to the Caldas in the Caribbean

How untrue this was !.

 

In 1955 a crew of eight set sail on a Columbian navy destroyer Caldis ,that has spent time in the US .The book sets of with a crew that maybe had partied too much when in America and a lot of stuff on board they shouldn’t have ,so when they hit a storm in the middle of the Caribbean ocean ,the crew and items they were returning to Columbia with all end up in the sea .Now the Navy searches and finds no one .But actually Luis Alejandro Velasco ,he managed to grab stuff and make him self a raft ,he spent ten days drifting on the ocean in which time he drank little ,manage to wrestle  fish from the sharks around him ,also kill a gull which he didn’t eat (can’t blame him I have a friend that grew up in the wilds of highland and shot regularly and once shot and tried a gull which he didn’t like one bit ) .Any way he manages to drift to land which luckily for him is actually his homeland of Columbia  ,he is brought back  to the city nursed back to health and given a heros welcome ,this is the point where his path crosses with Marquez who likes his story and decides to write this book to keep it for prosperity .

Hunger is bearable when you have no hope of food .but it was never so insistent as when I was trying to slash that shiny green flesh with my keys .

After a few minutes ,I realized I would have to use more violent methods if I wanted to eat my victim .

Velasco struggle to find food to eat .

This is a good old adventure yarn ,but far from being fiction it actually happened Luis Alejandro Velasco did spend ten days at sea ,he did suffer but like any true hero he had to fall t o rise and be honoured .As I read this I wondered if Yann Martell had read this .I think he did in some ways this is rather like a blueprint for A life of Pi but if Marquez had written this as a novel it would have been near Martell’s book I do wonder if in some way if life of pi was a way to see what happens when you add magic realism to a shipwreck story .Velasco story is of course like other stories Crusoe (based on the real life Alexander Selkirk from Lower Largo in Fife ,I used pass his statue on the way to my Gran’s every year ) which Defoe wrote and spawn many similar stories in what are known as Robinsonade fiction books about  a shipwrecks and sailors  from William Golding with Pincher Martin to Umberto Eco with the island of the day before  and also life of Pi .The actual book cause Marquez a lot of trouble due to the way he told the story of the contraband the ship was carrying and he had to actually leave Columbia for a while he also hand the writes to the book to Velasco in Spanish ,but kept the translation Rights himself  ,even thou Velasco tried to sue for them ,but then later made up with Marquez .Have you read this or have a favourite Robinsonade story ?

Leaf storm by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

leaf storm by Gabriel garcia Marquez

Leaf storm by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Columbian fiction

Original title – La Hojarasca

Translator – Gregory Rabassa

Source – Personnel copy

From the memory of that house ,and using his grandmother’s narrative voice as his own Linguistic Lodestone ,Marquez began building of Macondo

Salman Rushdie from his essay collection Imaginary homelands on Marquez

Well this is the first of a number of books I intend to review by Gabriel Garcia Marquez ,we lost this giant of Spanish language and Latin American writing earlier this year ,so it seemed fitting to focus for a few days in this times Spanish lit month on his books ,plus it will give me chance to add a few more to the two I have already reviewed here .In a side not I will be carrying on a bit into August with Spanish lit month so if you Haven’t had time to read something or would maybe like to cross over with Women in tranlsation month .

I’ve seen a corpse for the first time .It’s wednesday but I feel as if it was sunday because I didn’t go to school and they dressed me up in a green corduroy suit that’s tight in some places .Holding Mama’s hand ,following my grandfather ,who feels his way along with a cane with every step so he won’t bump into things .

The opening lines the grandsons view of the doctors funeral ,I really felt the kids voice here .

 

SO Leaf storm is the first book I’ve choosen by Marquez because in a way ,although not his first book it is the one that is readily available Marquez did write a book before this but it isn’t readily available .This book also saw the first appearance of the Village of Macondo which appeared in a lot of his later and more famous novels .This book also has a number of characters that Marquez uses in other books ,the first and main character in the book is an old man known in the village as Colonel ,the story centers around a promise he made to the village doctor many years before the book opens as this doctor ,who as an outsider was never really trusted within the village has died and over the years also fell out with other people .So it is left to the old Colonel to bury this man .Then there is the Colonel daughter Isabel ,who is obliged to help her father bury this man .Then there is the grandson of the Colonel he views this death with the mind of a young man ,with wide-eyed interest as he hasn’t seen death much before .So whilst honour his promise we see why the doctor end up the most hated man in the village .This leads to conflict as even thou the Colonel is a respect figure in the village ,no one wants to see the Doctor honoured with a decent funeral .

Even though he hoped it would be the opposite ,he was a strange person in town ,apathetic in spite of his obvious efforts to seem sociable and cordial .He lived among the people of Macondo ,but at a distance from them because of the memory of past against which any attempt at rectification seemed useless .

It was always hard for the doctor ,but aren’t villages always this way to incomers ?

Now this is a must for any one that has read his main novels as it is the first time we get to meet the village of Macondo .But it is also less steep in the magic realism of the later books this feels more like one of the original stories that Marquez heard of course Macondo is based on the Village his own grandmother  lived , we see the infant Marquez I feel in those first lines  and the settings is his own childhood  , the stories he heard from them as a child live on in this and his other books .The Colonel is a figure that crops up again and again in his novels the old man looking back at life and facing his own death in this case through the death of his old friend the doctor .Florentino as old man in love in the time of cholera or Jose in One hundred years of solitude .The narrative style is also clearly seen here ,I always think this is Marquez true gift ,we start the story as the doctor has died then through out the book see what happened and what happens as the two lines of the story twist and turn along we see how the past lead to the present and the tough words in the opening few pages become clear .

Have you read leaf storm ?

Liveforever by Andrés Caicedo

andres caicedo liveforever

Liveforever by  Andrés Caicedo

Columbian fiction

Orginal title – ¡Que viva la música!

Translator – Frank Wynne

Source – Review copy

“Caicedo is the missing link of the lost boom. He is the first enemy of Macondo. I do not know if he committed suicide or maybe was killed by García Márquez and the dominant culture of those times. He was less the rocker that the Colombians want and more an intellectual. a super genius tormented nerd. He had imbalances, anguish of living. He was not comfortable with the life. He had problems to stay on his foot. And he had to write in order to survive. He killed himself because he saw too much.”

Albeto Fuguet the acclaimed Chilean writer on his early death .

Now as any one who has been following the books read section of this blog will know I read this a few months ago ,but at time I was reading it was when Richard and I started discussing Spanish Lit month again .I want this to be the first book of the second Spanish lit month .I first heard of this book when Frank the translator mentioned it was meant to be coming a couple of years ago ,but with delays it didn’t arrive to this year .What first grabbed me was when I read up about  Andrés Caicedo life ,this was his only book ,he killed himself after this book came out .He had said to live more than twenty-five years was madness .He lived in Cali the main setting for the book ,had a deep love of cinema which meant he had dreamed of selling his plays to Roger Corman .He ran a club showing films and discussing the films with the students and intellectuals of Cali .Anyway for more go to his Wiki page  .

I’m blonde ,blondissima .So blonde that guys say ,hey angel ,you only have to flick that lustrous mane of hair over my face to free me of the shadows hounding me .it was no shadow on their faces but death .And I was scared to lose my sheen .

The opening lines of Liveforever .

 

Now to the book ,it’s a sort of coming of age story ,we spend time with María del Carmen Huerta ,Her story is told as she is now a high class prostitute ,her best days in that job behind her she looks at her life and this one day .The day she he miss school and just dance the way through the city of Cali ,from her own end of the city the upper class part of town ,her father is the man the photos the upper classes of the city ,the music she hears and moves to is the rolling stones western rock ,but as she moves down into the seedier darker side of the city ,junkies and drugs but also the salsa beats drive the city out open doors ,dance schools we see Maria drawn further into this world as her body pulsates with the beats of this part of town .As we see Maria drift between the groups within the city .Maria journey is one for her of discovery about herself and her world .

Who knows who maps our path through this world or how they do so ; here in beautiful Cali I am the queen of guganco I stepped out into the street ,into the sky so clear ! An enormous moon and deep wind from the mountains bore witness to my devastating revelations in that moment : that everything in life is lyrics ,is words .Maybe my words are of  a different order .

I found these lines so poetic ,Guganco is a type of Cuban rumba .

Now its hard not to miss connection with other books ,frank posted a review of this book that mention catch in the rye ,yes I agree partly with that but Maria isn’t a Holden for me .Caicedo was known for his wanting to break away from the writers of the Latin american boom in his writing ,so it hard to compare with writers around him from that time like of Marquez or Lllosa  as seen in the opening quote on this review .No this is far more a book about setting forth ,setting free a mind .A woman discovering herself and her body at the same time ,of course Nada springs to mind ,the Spanish catcher in the rye ,but also the style of literature she was involved with the Tremendisomo ,the world told in its brutal and true way ,having just read Cela another master of this art ,I can see part of this in Caicedo writing the brutal nature of the city of Cali comes alive and burst of the page .Add to that his love of films Corman in particular ,Corman made the film The trip about LSD ,which ike this book caught the experience of taking drugs .The other main part of this book is the music there is a three page discography of the music that is feature within the book ,from the driving rolling stones of the seventies ,through salsa ,I brought a number of the tracks from the discography into a spotify playlist  which I suggest you listen too and get a real feel of the book and the pace of Caicedo writing .So welcome to spanish lit month .

 

Memories of my Melancholy whores by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

memories of my Melancholy whores

Memories of my Melancholy whores by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Columbian fiction

Original title – Memoria de mis putas tristes

Translated by Edith Grossman

Source – Library

Well I decide a while ago when news of Gabriel Garcia Marquez having dementia and not in the best of health at this moment in time ,he has won the Nobel prize and sure is a writer I have to say little about as he is one writer in translation that seems to have crossed that magic barrier to be read by everyone regardless of it being in translation (wouldn’t it be great for more writers to break that wall in the reader’s mind )  well up to now I have only one book under review  on the blog by him so hope in coming months to add a few but not being a big rereader at best of times when I was this on in the library which I hadn’t read it seemed a great place to start .

At one time I thought these bed-inspired accounts would serve as a good foundation for a narration of the miseries of my misguided life ,and the title came to me out of the blue .Memories of my Melancholy whores .

The narrator comes up with the actual book title .

Well where to start with Memories of my Melancholy whores ,it is his last book published in English and the last but one in Spanish (that being a collection of his speeches published in Spanish in 2010 ).So the main character in the book is a unamed reporter ,he is on the verge of his 90th birthday ,he decides he wants one last fling with a teen virgin to maybe go out in a blaze of glory  .So he meets the local madam Rosa to set this up ,as we do this the man recalls past women ,the narrator the old man choose a wild life of women over love he recalls his life over the course of the book in small chunks  .He then meets the girl Rosa has found for him Delgradina ,she is 14 and perfect in the old man’s eyes, she has wonderfully flawless skin and hair , because the second he sees her for the first time in his life he falls deeply in love .He shares nights with here but Delgradina isn’t her real name ,he never finds out more about her .

She was surprised when I mentioned the name Delgradina .That isn’t her name ,she said ,her name is …. Don’t tell me I interrupted ,for me she’s Delgradina .She shrugged all right ,after all ,she’s yours,

He never even knows her real name this young girl he has fallen so much for

 

 

Well this is a clever switch on his earlier book love in the time of cholera ,florentino is the flipside of this narrator a man who meet and had to leave his true love for most of his life sleeping with many women ,waiting this story follows a man maybe not knowing it but searching for that true love .Other Marquez traits are there like a  time span narrative , like  in a number of his other books. This book although is told in the present as the man reflects and remembers  the  nine decades in which he has lived   and the changing scenery around him  ,Marquez has always been the master of regret and solitude in his books his two best novels are rife with it  both present in this book .What is this man ?What is the sum of his life ? yes he is a fairly well-known report that has in the recent times written a weekly piece on the town and its life .But is that enough ? questions always questions  in Marquez (well that is what I come away with questions of life ) false turns ,missed chances ,lost loves and that one true love .If this is his last book it is a fitting tribute to the man as it has what made him the star he has been for the last fifty years and I would say is short enough for even those none readers to try .One can say yes maybe a 90-year-old and 14 year is wrong ,but the actual sex and meeting is a sideline in this book .The main themes are Marquez stand fare .

Have you read this book ?

Necropolis by Santiago Gamboa

Necropolis-cover

Necropolis by Santiago Gamboa

Columbian Fiction

Original title Necropolis

Translator Howard Curtis

Source Review Copy

Well I had a load of long and complex novels last year but two I had left to mull over in my mind before reviewing .This was one the other being Laszlo Krasznahokai ‘s Satantango .So Santiago Gamboa is considered one of the rising stars of Latin American literature .He studied literature at Bogotá university before moving to Europe and settling in Paris where he furthered his studies studying Cuban literature .He published his first novel in 1995 aged 30 ,this Necropolis is his seventh novel and his first to be translated into English .The book won the  Premio La Otra Orilla award .

Dear writer ,in view of your work ,we have the pleasure of inviting you to the international congress on biography and memory (ICBM),to be held in the city of Jerusalem from 18 – 25 may

part of the invite that starts and is the framing device for the story .

So Necropolis is a novel is  about an unnamed Columbian  writer,who has been struggling for a couple of  years with his craft of writing and illness .But he is very intrigued when he receives a very strange offer from the ICBM (International Congress on Biography and Memory ),Now at first he wonders why but it seems legitimate so he says he will attend ,even thou he hasn’t in his mind written anything overtly biographical .So he sets off from his base in Rome to the conference which happens to be in Jerusalem.So he receives a copy from the ICBM OF attendees at the conferences and it is far to say apart from one man who also comes from Columbia like the writer these people have little in common .So we go to the conference and we see the first speaker talk this is mixed with our narrator as he meets his fellow delegates and listens to the talk by Jose Maturana ,this is about a church he became involved in and the collapse of this  cult like church and how the main man one Walter De la salle disappeared  .Next think is this guy turns up dead and we have what maybe a murder or a suicide ? then the action moves away from this to the other people and there stories at the conference an Italian  porn star ,a businessman who has been trying to deals with the Farc ,( a terrorist group in Columbia )  and a pastor each of these stories we hear are about fifty pages long  finally we return to find out what happen to Jose and was it murder ?

  The life story I am about to relate is a harsh and sometimes even macabre one, so I hope there are no young people in the room ,There are situations that the inexperienced or the innocent may find disturbing .I’m not sure on the conferences policy on this ,and I shall certainly go ahead and tell my story anyway .But it might be a good idea to check at the entrance that all members of audience are of legal age just for today .

Sabina telling her story to the conferences

Well that is  brief description of  this.It is very hard to grasp without getting  to in-depth with the story or stories .This book has a feel of ambition about it and scope .The book is set up really as a collection of stories and a murder story ,it has a feel rather like those classic tales of literature .In  a number of reviews I saw The Decameron is mentioned as one such  collection ,but I felt Canterbury tales could also work as the book is set round the conference it is a framing device like the trip the pilgrims took,  these people have been drawn together  at the king David hotel too essentially tell their stories .The tales we are told by the delegates are about love ,sex ,good and evil . Ambitious as you can tell ,it works and one feels the could be a number of other stories come from this one book in the future . Santiago Gamboa has assumed the mantel of writers like Marquez and Bolano .

Have you read this book ?

Do you have a favourite latin american work of fiction ?

The sound of things falling by Juan Gabriel Vasquez

the sounds of things falling

The sounds of things falling by Juan Gabriel Vasquez

Columbian fiction

Spanish title El ruido de las cosas al caer

Translator Anne McLean

Source Review copy

Jean Gabriel Vasquez is a Columbian writer ,This is his third novel ,he studied law ,after getting his degree he lived in france in the late 1990’s then Belgium finally settling in Barcelona in Spain .I have previously reviewed his second novel the secret history of Costaguana which was on the IFFP list two years ago .

The first hippopotamus ,a male the colour of black pearls weighing a ton and a half ,was shot dead in the middle of 2009 .He’d escaped two years before from Pablo Escobar’s old zoo in the Magdalena valley ,and during that time of freedom had destroyed crops ,invaded drinking troughs ,terrified fishermen and even attacked the breeding bulls at a cattle ranch .

the opening of the novel .

So I have read his previous two novel both set in the past ,as is this his latest but this is set more in the present past than his previous two .This is a close look at his homelands distant past .This book deals with the horror of the drug trade and its effects on people .I was struck by the opening of this book that sees a Hippo that has escape from the zoo that was owned by the notorious drugs baron Pablo Escobar ,this reminded me of the novella down the rabbit hole by Juan Pablo Villabos which saw a young boy wanting a pygmy hippo he was actually the sone of a Mexican drugs baron .Anyway back to this book the shooting of the hippo was read by Antonio Yammara now a teaching law ,but his has a Proustian moment reading this and is brought back to the mid 90’s and the hieght of the drug cartels stranglehold on Columbia .Yammara was a young lawyer not overly happy with his lot and spent afternoons in a pool hall this is where he meet Ricardo Laverde ,this guy is a pilot and is maybe mixed up with the wrong people but is someone the young Yammara made a connection with this guy he has spent time in prison and gives Yammara a tape and then is shortly gunned down ,This tape and his wanting to find out more about Ricardo Laverde and how he end up gunned down ,in doing so we see the start and the rise of the drug trade in Columbia .Added to that Ricardo’s daughter and a love story in a way you get a lot in this book.I saw this quest as Yammara trying to find himself as well as what happened and maybe find his place in the world .

A black cassette with an orange label .On that labe a single word BASF

“it is just side A ” ,Consu told me “when your finished listening to it ,leave it all beside the stove .There where the matches are .And make sure the door’s closed properly when you leave ”

The tape from Ricardo that sets Yammara on his quest .

Well this book gives you a real insight into how Columbia fell apart and is slowly dragging its self out of the dark times .I felt in parts this was a personnel story Vasquez was telling a story of his homeland and its distant past through his eyes in a way he did study law and in some ways you could see Yammara as maybe an alternate Vasquez had he stayed in Columbia and not gone to France.What we get is an unflinching portrait ,we all remember the names of people like Escobar ,but until I read this I had not seen the newtons cradle like effect of the drugs trade on every one in Columbia .As ever you can’t pick fault with the twice IFFP winning translator Anne Maclean work on this book it won the Premio Alfaguara on of the best regard and richest literary prize for spanish language fiction other recent winners include Santiago Roncagliolo and Andres Neuman both of which are under review here at winstonsdad .

Have you read Juan Gabriel Vasquez ?

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