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.

 

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 ?

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