Among the lost by Emiliano Monge

 

Among the lost by Emiliano Monge

Mexican fiction

Original title – Las Tierras arrasadas

Translator – Frank Wynne

Source – review copy

Some of the best books I have read in recent years have been from Mexican writers they seemed to have been an explosion of great writers from the from Yuri Herrea, Valeria Luiselli and Guadalupe Nettel. So when I got chance to read another rising star of Mexican fiction Emiliano Monge is a political scientist journalist and writer. His works have featured in the 25 best-kept secrets of Latin American literature and Mexico twenty this is the second of his books to be translated into English Arid sky was translated by restless books. But this has been translated by Frank Wynne which I have long been a fan of his translations.

After a brief silence, Epitafio brings his left hand to his pocketand, as he takes a was of banknotes to give to the boys, he feels a pressure in his bladder. I’m pissing myself,he thinks, handing over the money, then, unbucklinghis belt, he adds; how about we say same place, next thursday? Fine, we’ll be here, promises the older of the two boys, who dragging the younger boy by hand, heads back into the jungle.

As his body empties, Epitafio watches how the two boys hop overa root and how they pull back the curtain of liana.But he does not see the two disappear beyond the wall that separates the clearing from the jungle, because at that moment the petrol genartor belches again and he looks anxiu=ously at the old truck: Fucking hell …I’ll have to wake her up.

His first times in the jungle he is nervous Epitafio

 

 

 

This is a love story in the middle of the hell that is the world of being trafficked through Mexican jungle. Although it is described more of Dante like a trip through hell. The two main characters Estela and Epitafio are the lovers that grew up in a lonely orphanage became lovers then the world tore them apart on too two sides as we see their worlds of brutal trafficking of kids and adults where life can be swift and brutal and for the woman here harrowing. We see there lives as they often have no names just a jumble of words stuck together as a description of them like Estella who is called shewhoadoresepitafo . He Epitafo forced by the head of the gang into a marriage, not to Estella has a wife and son constantly tries to get in touch with Estella but in this hinterland of Mexico his mobile phone rarely works and the vehicles he uses are broken and old so he catches glimpses and seconds with his old lover. Will, they ever escape the hamster wheel of hell that is their lives to be together again.

Two metres from IHearonlywhatiwant, in a nest build unto the rock face, two hatchlings cheep and the sound attracts the attention of this woman, who, on seeing the nest, shifts her thoughts to another person, thinks for a moment about Cementeria: back in El Paraiso, they were responsible for feeding the chickens.

turning back from the sheer drop, estela stares at the fledglings and once again wonders what happened to Cementreria ,where she was all that time she was missing, and why the hell she tookher own life. But her minds quickly accepts that now is not time to think about such things, and her friends suicide is once again replaced by thpoughts of Epitafio: Fucking hell …I didn’t even respond to your message!

I bet you’re pissed off

A brutual world weere they lose friends but estela still after all thinks of her man !!

This book uses the divine comedy as a sort of companion to describe the hellish world the two lead characters find themselves in this is shown by the frequent Dante quotes through the book. I also read he is a Joyce fan as he is one of a group of this is shown to me in the Names of some of the characters which in a way echo Joyce’s way of combining words in Finnegans Wake. This is a grim world that hasn’t been shown through rose colour glasses this is a brutal world where the migrants are the currency for those taking them to the north and the end of the journey for that get to the end that is or those that like Estella and Epitafio are born into this world and never really have a chance to escape this world. A powerful view of his home country wonderfully translated by Frank who has a great intro around names and words used in the novel.

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After the winter by Guadalupe Nettel

After the winter by Guadalupe Nettel

Mexican fiction

Original title – Después del invierno

Translator – Rosalind Harvey

Source – personnel copy

I move on to Mexico today and a rising star of Mexican fiction. I had reviewed an earlier novel by Guadalupe Nettel The body where I was born a couple of years ago.This book won the Preimo Herralde one of the leading prizes for Spanish language fiction. Her books have been translated into ten languages. She also featured in the group of writers picked for Bogota 39 for the best Latin American writers under 39 in 2007.

I became Ruth’s lover convinced that in terms of love I was handicapped. At first, my attraction to her was minimal. I was seduced in large part to her elegance, her expensize shoes and perfume. I met her one evening at my friends Beatriz’s house, a swedish woman who had emigrated to New York at the same timeas I had, and who shows in a couple of SoHo galeries. Betriz has a loft decorated with funiture from the 70’s she has collectedfrom garage sales she often goes to.

Claudio on how he meet his older woman Ruth.

The story focus on two people first we have Claudio a young Cuban living in New York. Her has a rather small flat that opens out in to a wall. But it is the location of the flat that is the bonus Manhatten then he is in a relationship with an older woman Ruth. He has a strange relationship with her where he is in control of there relationship. He is a man of rigid habits he is a book editor, A man above overs in his ways sometimes. We meet Cecilla a young Mexican woman who has come to Paris to study literature. This young woman is drawn to the great graveyard of Pere-Lachaise. He flat overlooks this graveyard. she spends time wandering looking at the famous grave Chopin being one of them. I am always amazed how often Chopin crops up in books. he leads such an interesting life thou and such a young death as it is noted in the book. Now Cecilla notices her neighbor is also drawn to the graveyard they chat. But this is a short relationship. The book follows these two each t=chapter told by one of the other as we see how Claudio by chance ends up in Paris.

“Is there something wrong?” I said defensively as I opened the door. I was wearing my own annoyed expression.

“The radio” He replied, like someone giving a password.

I was silent for a few seconds, trying to understand what he was refereing to, but it was useless.

“It’s been on in your room for more than five days and you haven’t eveb got the decency to turn the volume down at night.”

His reply surprised me. By that point, the presence of the radio had become a background noise I never thought about.

“If it annoys you that much I can turn it off” I said, to put an end to the matter.

Cecilla meets her neighbour Tom for the first time after this the two are drawn closer for a time.

The other novel I reviewed by Nettel saw a woman growing up.  Here we see a shy woman experiences Paris and has a small chance when she meets her neighbour but he isn’t so well and just as things seems to be going one way he has to leave to the country. Then we see Claudio a man living his in his world that he has drawn so many lines he is a man tied by not want to let himself free. His vanity at times is huge. So we have two people each with there own quirks and on different continents but like Chaos theory there is that one chance like a butterfly wing flapping causing something larger this is a book that follows two characters ripples in the world and wonders what happens when they collide. I love Cecilla as she wanders this graveyard looking at the names of those there.

 

Before by Carmen Boullosa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before by Carmen Boullosa

Mexican fiction

Original title – Antes

Translator – Peter Bush

Source – Personal copy

So now on to Mexico in this years Spanish lit month and the debut novel from Carmen Boullosa which came out in 1989.Carmen Boullosa is both a poet and novelist, she has written 17 novels so far and there is seven of those available in English translation. Two of which including this is from Deep Vellum, I have reviewed ebooks from them but have fallen out of love with ebooks and haven’t reviewed them. So as I have had a little extra money the last few months I have bought paper copies of their books to read.

One day in the middle of break. Maria Enela(that was her name, was or that’s what I rememember, and will stick with Enela) invited me into the hencoop with the. There were no hens or remains of hens. I suspected it was one of the nuns projects thay hadn’t taken root .. an abandoned building, clean for some reqason, dark and silent. I went in with her . Then the steps came close and she asked me “What sare those steps?”

“What do you think ?”I replied, nothing gto worry..”

“You know what I’m talking about,” she said “you know very well. I’m being followed … They old me to ask you

The otherworldlyness of the book, is that ghosts.

Before is told in the voice of a small girl, we see here looking back on her puberty a right of passage as she became a woman. Her sisters and her play with simple white pebbles together in the book make fantasy countries in lines with the stones but then they disappear. Then trying to find out which Turtle was in the turtle shop they had one day the story moves at times into almost a ghost story as strange things happen around the young girl things she has trouble explain or understanding .The story is a fragmented story as thou from a child time is flipped in place and events run against each other in times. There is the mother but the father is the man in the dark is he there or has he gone or died.A book that shows how frightening growing up can be and we see things that maybe or ghost or just fragments of our imaginations as we try to make sense of this world.

The pebbles that I “collected” from the neighbours yard were small, white, and were used by them to decorate the window box adorning the front of their house.

Collecting them was an adventure because they were just beyond our reach and because they were “cultivated” pebbles, “pedigree” pebbles and not stones from the street, so nobody should see us when we got them.

I lived the image of stealing those pebbles we all did something similar as a kid didn’t we !

As I said this is what Mexican writing does so well the short punchy novella from Juan Rulfo with Pedro Paramo which also has a sense of otherness to it written before this novella and a work after by say Yuri Herrera’s signs preceding the end which has a ghostly feel to the text and came out after this book. I also saw a comparison with Guadalupe Nettel’s work  that also touches on times on growing up. There is a style to Boulosa writing that is gripping to the reader given the great translation from Peter Bush. The girl’s voice has a real feel of a young woman looking back and the way you miss as a child the mundane in life and also the way we look at others and events in those years.A tumbling collection of remembered thoughts. Have you read any of her books?

The Body Where I was Born by Guadalupe Nettel

The Body Where I was Born

The Body where I was born by Guadalupe Nettel

Mexican fiction

Original title – El cuerpo en que nací

Translator – J T LIchenstein

Source – review copy

Guadalupe Nettel is another of those wonderful young Mexican writers that has appeared over recent years.She is also another from the selection of Bogota 39 writers the Hay festival did in 2007 . She studied Spanish literature at university , particually the works of Octavio Paz. She has written three novels , this is her first to be translated to English ,, this is her second novel her third novel After the winter won the leading  spanish lit prize , The Herralde Prize.

While the two parental hemispheres never gave me and my brother any navigational problems, the ninetennth-century grandmother universe was the least hospitable territory we’d known. This universe was governed, at least in my opinon, by completely arbitrary laws that took months to assimate. Many of them were based on the supposed inferiotry of women. The way my grandmother saw it, a little girl’s first and foremost even before going to school – was to help clean the home.

After freedom in Mexico , her mother breaks down and has to go back to her mothers

The book is told as a dialogue on a life growing up. A woman born with a white mark over her right eye. Her parents are determined to at some point try to find a way to give her the full sight she should have. What follows is a story of a childhood , her parents split up as this is the seventies and the marriage splits as they had an Open marriage. This leads to her travelling the world with her lone  parent to the other as she grows both in her body but also in her mind as she dives into a world of books and discovers literature , but also freedom and the lack of freedom as she moves from the Commune world of Mexico where she is given the freedom to study. To the older world of her mother in France. She was called a cockroach when she was born the way she was curled up when walking  . Strange how they crop up in literature a roach is a feature in the novel The passion according to GH where it is crushed by the woman in that story , but in this Nettel the female narrator of this book connects with Kafka character that turns into a roach.We she her grow up almost a female bildungsroman

In the dream, I entered the operating room but stayed awake for a long time. I watched the doctor cut into my eye, very slowly with a razor like the one in the film UnChein Andalou . Once my eye was gaping open, the doctor removed from it a very small object. It was a red seed no bigger than two centimeters long, like a bean seed.

The day before her Operation Nettel has a dream . I would have the same dream myself .

There is a scene near the end when they find some one to do the operation on her eye and she imagine the scene in the famous film Un chein andalou by Luis Brunel and Dali a chilling way to look at the operation. It turns out the book has certain autobiographical themes the name Cockroach was given to her by her mother as a two-year old as well. She also live in her teens in Aix En Provence a city as she shows in the book has two sides to it. This is a story of a broken childhood that is so much the normal now with families split told from the point of view of those divide by it. Nettel shows how it is to grow up , with your parents not their. The cover maybe shows the blurred vision of the character but also the chaos of her growing up.

Have you read any books Nettel ?

Sudden death by Álvaro Enrigue

Sudden death by  Álvaro Enrigue

Mexican fiction

original title – Muerte súbita

Translator – Natasha Wimmer

Source – review copy

Well it is Thursday and this translation Thursday I bring to you all one of the biggest stars in Mexican Lit, in fact part of what we may say is the Power couple of mexican fiction as Alvaro is married to fellow Mexican writer Valerie Luiselli. He has won a number of prizes and one of his books was picked on a list of the best recent books from Mexico .. I have read his book before I brought a copy of Hypothermia which came out a few years ago that was a collection of short stories this is his first novel to be translated into English.

At the collegiate church of Ottery St Mary, under Lacey’s rule, a group of novices had been using at the roofed gallery of the cloister to play matches against townies. In those day tennis was much rougher and noiser than it is today some were attackers, others defenders, there were no nets or lines, and points were won tooth and nail, by slamming the ball into an opening called a dedans. since it was invented by Mediterranean monks, it had redemptive overtones.

The rearly tennis so much different I once saw a court in Oxford for what is now known as Real tennis

Now the shock for you all the book is set of a fictional game of tennis , although this appears to be what we in the uk would call real tennis which is a slightly different game that game before the modern game we know. The match is between the Italian Painter Caravaggio (I mainly know about him from the Derek Jarman film in the 80’s about him ) he is playing the Spanish poet Francesco de Quevedo a quick-witted poet that wrote prose satire and many poems. As the match unfolds in other chapters we travel the world from England with Thomas Cromwell and Henry viii then through to latin america and the dying Aztec empire as they also play a game with the Spaniards there . whilst the two are cheer on from the sidelines by many well-known figures of the time Galileo, Saint Mathew and Mary Magdalene all cheer the two the vulgar Italian painter well-known for his pictures (he did paint the first still life of the modern age in his basket of fruit and the Spanish poet still trying to keep in favour with the royal court of Spain via this match.

Scarcely had Jean Rombaud disembarked at Franciscopolis – such a ridiculous name of the port of Le Harve until the death of King Francis I – before he began to spread the rumour that he was in possession of the darksome braids of Anne Boleyn and the he would make tennis balls with them that would at last gain him entry to the closed courts, where the nobility sweatedt hrough one shirt per game, five per set and fifteen per match. He had always felt that his freshed washed lions mane gave him the right to hardwood and tile: to play for sport rather than money .

I love the story of the ball it is great fun tale one of those odd stories that could be real or could be fake.

I have said before that I hate tennis , well in this case it didn’t matter as the match is just a small framing device to capture two figures that maybe show the world of the time the match is set is in change this is the golden age of discovery, When The world was moving from one age to another even the ball in this story has its own story it is made from the hair of the late Anne Boeyln. Enrique plays with what a novel is this like an earlier novel from Mexico I read By Jorge Volpi , shows how history can be made to serve the present also be caught in one match a duel between two artist to the end as the world around them sees an empire fall a man marry many woman and even the crowd have their stories to tell along the way .Of course with Wimmer translating this book it will of course bring many to connect this to Bolano, but for me they are just two great writers and for me Enrique has maybe more in common with Volpi than Bolano. This is one of those book that defies pigeonholing as a novel one of those that break the mould.

Hve you read anything by Enrique ?

Signs preceding the end of the world by Yuri Herrera

Signs Preceding the End of the World_CMYK SMALL

Signs Preceding the end of the world by Yuri Herrera

Mexican fiction

Original title – Señales que precederán al fin del mundo

Translator – Lisa Dillman

Source – Review copy

My trip through last years books that could make the Man booker longlist has hit one I eel fits the old IFFP mould an issue novel as Tony and I have been saying the last few years, but this is a clever take on an issue by one of the rising stars of Mexican writing Yuri Herrera. This is his second novel and has already been translated into a number of other languages . This is his first book in English.

Slippery bitch of a city, she said to herself. Always about to sink back into the cellar

This was the first time the earth’s insanity had affected her. The little town was riddled with bullet holes and tunnels bored by five centuries of voracious silver lust, and from time to time some poor soul accidentally discovered just what a half-assed job they’d done of covering them over. A few houses had already been sent packing to the underworld, as had a soccer pitch and half empty school. these things always happen to someone else, until they happen to you, she thought. She had a quick peek over the precipice, empathized with the poor soul on his way to hell. Happy trails, she said without irony, and then muttered Best be on with my errand

Makina on way to get her errands to go North for her Brother.

Signs preceding the end of the world follows a journey that happens a hundred times a day and that is the migrant journey between Mexico and United States. What Yuri has done here is taken the location away from the story and just told the story through the person and people involved Makina a young woman who has a dual purpose for being on the journey. personal and for the underworld  That is to find her brother and bring him back down south but also deliver messages from the underworld via Mr Double- U ( love that name almost like a Trantino name ) in her small town and her own mother as they want the brother to return. Makina makes this journey that is well trodden but through her eyes we see a strange world of odd towns and weird rivers as she heads north, how do you see snow when you see it for the first time ?

When she reached the top of the saddle between the two mountains it began to snow. Makina had never seen snow before and the first thing that struck her as she stopped to watch the weightless crystals raining down was that something was burning. One came to perch on her eyelashes: it looked like a stack of crosses or the map of a palace, a solid and intricate marvel at any rate, and when it dissolved a few seconds later she wondered how it was some things in the world – some countries, some people could see eternal when everything was actually like that miniature ice palace:

Snow for the first time also the way it has a myth like nature to Herrera’s prose.

 

This is a book I read twice, Herrrera has taken a fresh way at looking at makina journey and that is make it feel like an odssey , make her journey feel like a myth like a classic quest as she tries to get north. I was reminded of when I read Paz years ago how he viewed Mexico as a labyrinth of myths and history and this takes this and also clashes this past with the neighbour to the north the bright shining lights of US and there modern myths that have taken Makina’s brother and now she is having to go there as well. This is how we see migrants through  there eyes Makina could be anyone from around the world she could be a sister on the back of a lorry entering The uk , or a sister walking the tracks into Europe  or on a boat. Herrera has made Makina an everyone more than just a small village girl.

Have you a favourite Migrant story ?

 

The story of my teeth by Valeria Luiselli

The story of my teeth

The story of my teeth by Valeria Luiselli

Mexican Fiction

Original title – La Historia de mis dientes

Translator – Christina MacSweeney

Source – library book

I’ve been up and I been down
When I been between I just been hangin’ around.
Things are quite different
And life ain’t the same
Since I lost my tooth.

Now the women they treat me rude,
Not that they ever really treated me that good
I’m a minority and now I know
What it’s like and how it feels to be a negro.
doo doo doo doo

It’s gettin’ down to the nitty gritty
If you can’t smile nice and you can’t smile pretty
They don’t wantchya around they say you look sloppy
When you eat

I love the songs of Daniel Johnson and his song since I lost my tooth is a perfect lyric match for this book

Well it is upon us the second women in translation month and I start with a crossover book as we decide to carry spanish lit month over for another month ,so the perfect choice is this book from one of the best writers to appear in recent years in translation the Mexican writer Valeria Luiselli I have reviewed her first novel Faces in the crowd and her essay collection sidewalks here as well .Valeria Luiselli still is living in New york , she also writes a monthly coloumn for El pais .This is her second novel to be translated to English .

I’m the best auctioneer in the world .But no one knows it because I’m discreet sort of man .My name is Gustavo Sanchez Sanchez , though people call ,e highway , I believe with affection .I can imitate Janis Joplin after two rums . I can interupt Chinese fortune cookies .I can stand an egg upright on the table , the way Christopher Columbus did in famous anecdote . I know how to count to eight in Japanese Ichi , ni san , shi , go , roku , Schicho , Hachi .I can float on my back .

Gustavo tells us all about himself in the opening lines of the book .

I couldn’t resist a book on teeth . This is a tall tale of one man and his teeth both his own and his collection of famous teeth . Gustavo Sanchez is a man of many talents , but all this is overshadowed by the state of his teeth . So along the way in his life he has somehow managed to collect a selection of teeth of the rich and famous and has reached a point where he wants to sell these teeth to get himself a new set of teeth .But where did he get those teeth he is selling and where did his own teeth go ? Gustavo is a real character and his stories of the teeth and how he got them are real gems to read .Also the lot descriptions of the teeth in the sale , he is a real salesman

Hyperbolic Lot No. 8

Some teeth are tormented , such is the case of this one the property of Mrs Virginia Woolf .When she was thirty years old , a psychiatrist posted the theory that her emotional ills were due to an excess of bacteria around the roots of her teeth .He decided to extract the three most affected ones .Nothing changed

I love this tall tale of Woolf and her teeth being the cause of her problems .

Now this is the sort of book I love and for me the sort of book that we only find in translation this isn’t a book that would see the light of day in english I imagine . For me teeth have often cropped up in books from Martin amis talking in his autobiography about his own dental problems is one I remember a lot especially as his novel times arrow had echos of the film Marathon man . Now Gustavo is a character that jumps of the page ,a voice that is maybe a every man who is pursuing his dreams , but it is  how he is trying to get his dream teeth is a unique take on how to get to your dreams in this modern age  .It is maybe also a reflection on what price we put on perfection these days . Add to that a tour of the lives of Plato Woolf and Chesterton to name a few and you have a wonderfully witty and truly unique book .

Have you a favourite book with teeth in ?

 

 

The Eagle’s throne by Carlos Fuentes

 

The Eagle’s throne by Carlos Fuentes

Mexican Fiction

Original title – La silla del águila

Translator – Kristina Cordero

Source – Personnel copy

 

Here we are, seeking out the Reds
Trying to keep the communists in order
Just remember when you’re sleeping in your beds
They’re only two days drive from the Texas border

How can a country large as ours be scared of such a threat
Well, if they won’t work for us, they’re against us you can bet
They may be sovereign countries but you folks at home forget
That they all want what we’ve got but they don’t know it yet

We’re making the world safe for capitalism

Billy Bragg wrote this song , The marching Ballard of the covert battalions ,the song is a satirical take on US foreign policy .

This was one of the first books I brought around the time I started the blog with the idea of  52 books from 52 countries , well of course that has long since been past and this book has sat on the shelf for over five years , I was attracted by both the fact it was a Fuentes novel , but also the great cover on this book a linocutout of an eagle is very eye-catching .Carlos Fuentes is probably the best known Mexican writer in his time a member of what is called the latin American boom ,he wrote over thirty novels , and was always a writer tipped for the Nobel prize .He supported Castro and was at one time investigated by FBI .I had thought i reviewed him before on the blog , but no this is the first by him on here .

Our modern communications system has suffered a grave paradox .On the one hand ,we strived to become part of the largest global communication network in existence .On the other hand , we have wanted to monopolise access to information for our Government’s benefit.

They put all their eggs in one basket so ended up getting cut off , when US struck back at them .

The eagles throne although written twelve years ago and set in 2020 , seems more apt now than it did at the time it was written .We are told the story in a series of letters , yes letters as the premise of the book is the the Mexican president and government in 2020 , has angered the US government  this has led to the US effectively removing all the modern communication tools from Mexico .So with letters are the only way contacting and keeping in touch .We see a change in life as people start to open up more in letters .The topic of course on the mind is how will take over The Eagle’s throne (the name of the seat of the president !) .So what we get is the inner workings of the Mexican government laid bare in letters as we see the leading figures and powerbrokers jostling for power and trying to get the throne and the blackout sorted .Also what secrets will be let out in the letters .

Ex-president Cesar Leon came to visit me .At first I didn’t even recognise him .That young man with wavy black hair is now a mature man with wavy white hair .Those matinée idol’s wavy locks are what define him for me , politically and morally as well as physically .They remind me of that old song “The waves of the lagoon” some waves come ,while others go .

I was struck by the opening of this letter it is so true , leaders do age when in power .

Now I said this is more meaningful now than twelve years ago , imagine the  present with out the chance to use smartphones , laptops etc .I doubt even Fuentes could see how much the world would move on and really even more on wireless communication , this is like the millenium bug happening a country thrown back to a time when the written word was the only way to contact one another .Another thread to this book is of course the relationship between mexico and the US , this strangely has changed as well (from the totally uniformed view of me ) it seems Mexico is growing and is often mentioned as one of those countries along side Brazil , China  and India that will one day hold more power in world affairs ,whereas the US has seen the world power shrinking in recent years .So Fuentes wrote this after fifty years of writing , it isn’t as epic as some of his other books but is said a unusal future take on the epistolary novel .I must not wait five years to have another book by Fuentes on the blog .

Have you read Fuentes

 

Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo

 

Pedro Páramo By Juan Rulfo

Mexican fiction

Original title -Pedro Páramo

Translator – Margaret Sayers Peden

Source – Library copy

Have you got just a minute
Are you easily mad
Let me show you the back room
Where I saw the dead
Dancing like children
On a midsummer morn
And they asked me to join
They asked me to join
But my body was stubborn
Wouldn’t let me give in
So I offered a good deed
In return for a sin

I thought of this song even as i read this book I saw the dead by the underrated Irish band the villagers source

Now I ask myself a couple of years ago when the right time to read and put this book on the blog would be and I decide to wait as it is considered one of the most important books in Latin American fiction as it has influenced some of the biggest names in Latin American fiction .Juan Rulfo had lost both his parent before his tenth Birthday , he carried on to complete his schooling but due to university being on strike he ended up in Mexico city at the military academy ,which he left after three months worked as a clerk managing to study literature at the university in between .He started to write ,publishing a literary journal , then from getting a fellowship he got time to write his first two novel which where a huge hit and in 1955 this book his second book came out .

I came to Comala because I had been told my father a man named Pedro Páramo , lived there .It was my mother who told me .And I promised her that after shee died I would do it .She was near death , and I would have promised her anything .”Don’t fail to go see him ” she had insisted .”Some call him one thing , some another .I’m sure he will want to know you ”

Juan completes the promise he made his dying mother .

Pedro Páramo   is the story of a son returning to his home town , after his mother death to find his father , but also to find out more about his father  .The son Juan Preciado sets out to the town of Comala .Now this is the point where the story starts getting odd because he gets to the town and finds it is full of ghosts of his fathers past and the present , so the story drifts between his father  Pedro Páramo time in the village , his father as a boy falling for a girl called Susana .Her life is one of death and madness .Pedro own life takes many a turn he is a womanizer , tyrant and quite a cruel man .But Juan is in the present where this town isn’t the vibrant place it once was now it’s a dying town .THis is a small part of what are many threads Juan sees in his time in Comala .

If was as if time had turned backward .Once again I saw the star nestling close to the moon ,scattering clouds .Flocks of thrushes .And suddenly , bright afternoon light .

Time is very fluid in this book it is almost as thou the past and present are one place at times .

It’s hard to grasp this book without giving to many bits and side stories away  as there are a number of small threads in this book .The book although 120 pages long feels like an epic russian novel by the time you have finished it you feel as thou it was a real epic journey not a short novella .You feel part of Juan Rulfo own story is in this  book , parents dying ,young family torn apart .His greatest influence as  a writer is on the generation that follow just after him .Marquez said he saw how to write after he felt blocked in his first four books , so yes this is the book that gave birth to magic realism , but is a book of Magic realism  , for me no it owes more to its writers homeland mexico where the dead are celebrated and death sometimes isn’t  the end of someones life these are echoes of what was once a more vibrant  place juan sees at times  .The book also shows how sometimes thwarted love as in the case of Pedro and Susana can lead people down different paths .For me the time was right to read it just after a burst of Marquez , but also Fuentes and Llosa in recent years you can see how this slim book had maybe pushed each of these writers to write in turn as I have also read the other great Mexican book that came out five years before this labyrinth of solitude by Octavio Paz a collection of Essays about mexico and its love of death and myths !

Have you a favourite book from Mexico

In search of Klingsor by Jorge Volpi

in search of Klingsor

In search of Klingsor by Jorge Volpi

Mexican Fiction

Original title –  ‘En busca de Klingsor’

Translator – Kristina Cordero

Source – Personnel copy

The scientist only imposes two things, namely truth and sincerity, imposes them upon himself and upon other scientists.
Erwin Schrodinger Source

 

Now Volpi had long been on my list of writers I wanted to read this book is on most list of books to read from Spanish or the best books of the last twenty years .So when just before Spanish Lit month ,I did one of my regular visits to our local Oxfam ,I was pleased to find this and Lizard tales by Juan Marse both of which I brought .Jorge Volpi was born in Mexico ,studied law and literature ,starting a career as a Lawyer ,but still writing around this time with another of other Mexican writers he founded the Crack movement ,a style of writing moving Mexican and Latin american writing away from the Magic realism and Latin American boom .This book his best known so far is a perfect example of what they had in mind .

Let me give you a simple example .Lets take the Nazis and Britain :What is there common Objective ? The same pie Bacon :The Europe pie .Ever since Hitler took control of Germany in 1933 , all he has done is ask for pieces .First he wanted Austria ,then Czechoslovakia ,then Poland ,Belgium ,Holland ,France, Norway .Now he wants the whole pie .

Bacon talking with his professor before he went to Germany to find Klingsor

 

In search of Klingsor ,is the story of one man trying to find another man just after the second world war ,a young American Francis P Bacon is sent to the crumbling centre of Europe as the American want klingsor the codename for the top man in Hitler’s race to build an Atomic bomb .All Bacon knows is this could name and a few of the men involved ,Bacon Knows Einstein and is a pupil of him so he knows the names of the men to talk too first is a man who survived the bombing of Hitler  Links this then goes through an array of the best known scientist like Erwin Schrödinger and Niels Henrik David Bohr to find out whom was Klingsor ,but also along the way discovering how much the more or less the Germans knew than the american at the time ,many people could be Klingsor but Will Bacon ,get his Bacon so to speak .

“Klingsor ”

Francis P. Bacon read the word again and Again from a mineographed page of one of the Nuremburg trail transcripts .But it refused to reveal its hidden meaning .He had to be honest  with himself :He hadn’t  the foggiest notion of what he was looking for ,nor did he have any idea how he would go about finding it ,whatever it was .

Bacon is giving the task of finding Klingsor with the scantiest of details at hand .

 

Now this book is one of those books that doesn’t easily fit into the category of say historic fiction and it’s not slight enough to be compared to say Robert Harris it isn’t a pur historic thriller no this book is full of Ideas about Atomic theory ,Maths ,Philosophy ,Physics .No for me the two names I was left with after reading this was Umberto Eco and Thomas Pynchon ,the way the book unfolds reminds you some what of Eco that slow  bit by bit unravelling of what is going on and of course Pynchon one only has to think of Gravity’s rainbow and you can see the comparison the race to grab the best of the best that both the US forces and Russian forces did is seen here as we follow Bacon down the list of people it could be .Now this was written in 1999 ,Volpi is a professor and a well-known figure and has written a number of books since ,I want to try them but from what I’ve read he is yet to match this but I’m sure he will again this is a true masterpiece a book worthy to sit along side in the name of the rose and Gravity’s rainbow .

Have you read Volpi or any other member of the Crack movement writers ?

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