Rolling Fields by David Trueba

Rolling Fields by David Trueba

Spanish Fiction

Original title – Tierra de Campos

Translator – Rahul Bery

Tonight I bring a bestselling Spanish novel from an acclaimed director and screenwriter David Trueba. He directed the film version of the book Soldiers of Salamis by Javier Cercas. He has also directed a dozen films and has also published a couple of novels. This is his first to be translated into English. In looking up about this book I found on his Spanish publisher there was a spotify playlist the book is formed of two chapters side a and side b. Here is a link to the spotify list. It was also translated by a first-time translator.

We’re normal people. That was absurd way my father used to define us. I fought against it, quietly wishing not be normal, to be special. But I could never shake off the stigma of being normal.

“We’re just regular, normal people, Dani, my boy”

Because in my profession the exact opposite is what’s required. It’s only job where trashing your Cv increases your chances of getting to the top. We once meet Antonio Floresat the fiest in Peniscola, where we played just before him. He was so friendly that we instantly became confidents, despite not knowing him at all.

I like the last line a sort of music story yoiu net someone becomes you are best pals !!

The framing of the book is around a son driving his father’s corpse in a Hearst to his home village across the farming lands of Spain. Dani Masca is forty and is following his father’s last wish. He travels with him and the chatty Ecuadorian driver. But as they head off his thoughts drifts into his own life from a small village a humble town. He grew to be a singer/musician with his two school friends Gus and Animal f=they form a band but they all get caught up in the dark side of the music industry with there first manager and early recording career till they start to take off. Then add to this the loss of his mother at an early age a weird silence about his birth from his family, which later is revealed ! and as the road rolls out the mind of Dani flicks through all these events as well as his wife and two kids. Sex drugs rock and roll as he writes his love song. The memories of the early years the summers with his bandmates and growing up are great. This is a mid-life book that isn’t about a crisis but about a life that has been lived and coping with life.

We soon discovered that our ame belonged to a company owned by The Champo, along wioth the publishing rights for the songs and the sole rights to our forst two albums, as dictated by the contest’s one-sided regulations. This incident inoculated us against futher disappointments of the music world: the enitre advance from the label was spent on buying our freedom and we never got back the rights for those two songs, We also had to pay The Champ compensation in order to keep our name, Las Moscas.

This remind me of the stone rose early sings row with there first record label years ago.

This is a page-turner a good summer read I like it as it has a gentle mix of the family story in the relationship with Dani his parents also later with his wife and kids. Music the spotify list has a number if not most of the songs mention in the book. The band is a sort wart and all look at the music industry with the pitfalls that all bands find whether in Spain or Here the pitfalls of managers’ labels and friends that become bandmates all are of a type. Then the loves of Danis in his Friends, family, and music is at the heart of the book. There is a feeling that this is written by someone in the film industry I’ve read a few novels by filmmakers it is well-paced and you can feel it has a feeling of a film in the way it is paced. An interesting debut in English from a filmmaker and writer. A book for those who do like a fun read It says David Mitchell fans but for me, if Woody Allen had been born in Spain and been a singer in a band this is in his comic vain a mix of what makes life for us all. Have you read a book or seen his films at all?

Vicious by Xurxo Borrazas

Vicious by Xurxo Borrazas

Spanish (Galician) Fiction

Original title – Criminal

Translator – Carys Evans-Corrales

Source – review copy

It has been a while since I have reviewed a book from Small station I had a couple left that they had sent me a few years ago. They have published books from Galician and Bulgarian into English. Xurxo Borrazas studied English at university. He has since translated works by  Henry  Miller and William Faulkner. He has also published six novels This was his second novel. It won a number of book prizes when it came out in Spain. He has had a number of short stories also translated into English.

Chucho Monteiro stops at the side of the road Castrillion, by the ruins of ancient settlement. Carrying a green laurel branch in hishand, he has walked slowly uphil to the oak grove and is now sitting on a stone boundary marker at its edge. Strolling around the countryside in peace and quiet is something his body seems to need and is one of the activites that occupies most of his time. He tucks the branch under his arm, rubs his hands together to dust them off, takes out some tobacco and some matches, rolls a cigarette and lights it. From there he can see the Riba valley and firther on, in the Lendo foothills, the hamlets of Raposeira, Muino and Pitoquers sawmill on the road from San Roman to Nociela

Chucho you get a feel of the place and him as a person returning to his homeland.

A brother returns to the coast of Death as it is called in Galicia is the setting for this as a brother returns to live with his other brother. Chucho the older brother returning to his Younger Brother Daniel. He is settled Married with a child. The older brother left after he felt slighted by his family at times for his younger brother. What happens then is murder but what is clever is both the style Borrazas use it has an air of something from a different time Shakespeare is mention on the cover but yes there is something of that era about the story. Add to that the style of storytelling where we have a sort of swinging view of what has happened as we travel from the foregrounding of the murder what caused it to then the aftermath and being on the run trying to get to freedom. This is a tale of two brothers and a multi-layered book that we see at times from both as viewers and participate in the action.

Our newspaper brings you today the latest information on the horrifying events that have recently shaken Lacha, a municipality located some twent kilometers from Coruna.

Once again an iniquitous legend has taken a turn for the irrational with regard to a multiplemurder that can be described as a crime of passion nor as one motivated by financial or other reasons. It is primeval, instinctive act of violence that grows as it lurks in every corner of the shadowy nooks and crqannies of our villages and rural regions.

A start of a newspaper report into the crime and in has feel of place as well this place is old word in a way still.

This is a clever little novel it has lots of layers and is like entering a labyrinth as we try to find out the full story of the murder but into doing so we have to sort of seeing the prelude and the ending before we get what was the main act of the book. A clever if a different way of telling a crime but also at the heart of the book is the two paths that the two brothers in this book have taken in their respective lives that lead and in some part add to the events in the book.  A sort of preordain destiny at times we have a feeling they are trains on a track and the events in there lives are like stations on the route till they meet and  boom. I wish I had got to this one earlier than I have but it is another gem from Small stations who is run by the translator Jonathan Dunne. Have you read any Galician fiction?

Montano by Enrique Vila-Matas

Montano by Enrique Vila.Matas

Spanish Fiction

Original title – El mal de Montano

Translator – Jonathan Dunne

Source – Personal copy

Well, I reach the second book for Spanish lit month and this time it is from Spain one of our two writers to read in July. I have been a fan of Enrique Vila-Matas for about as long as I have been blogging. I have reviewed four of his book on the blog this is an older book but like his over books have part of Bila-Matas himself in a nod towards being a writer which I have come across in other books by him he is a writer that reminds me of myself he has a love of world literature and that is seen here again.

Today, in Montano’s home in Nantes, having confirmed that he is suffering as a result of his literary paralysis, i tried to amuse him by telling him all these stories of double and doubles’doubles.

“There are concidences and chances” my son remarked,. “From which you die laughing and there are coincidences and chances from which you die£

Didn’t Justo Navarro say that ?

As a narrator he is unreliable as here is a son we discover later was invented by the writer.

The book is narrated by a writer who has to end up as a lit critic as he tries to write that great novel. Montano is his son that suffers from the same love lof lit as the writer himself. So he visits Nates where Montano where he lives as we do this he starts talking about various writers connect to Nantes as The writer’s wife has worries her son has followed her husband down the rabbit hole of lit he is stuck in writing about other writers he has been caught in a loss of his own style. Next, he heads to Chile meets Tonguy a character based on an actor of Vila-Matas own friends.  He then travels to the Azores with a filmmaker. As he returns to Spain we find his son isn’t a real person. It was just something he made up and in the next section of the book he starts talking about writers especially those who kept Journals Witold Gombrowicz who huge Diary I read a number of years ago. Then we have people like  Genet, Virginia Woolf it not there style of writing that he is into but the way they viewed their world around them but as he goes further down a hole of literature as he starts to wrestle with himself and other characters he had read about. It is part diary part journey part road trip and part diary.

Gide, andre(Paris, 1869-1951). In an unintentional way, this writer’s diary tells the story of someone who spent his life seeking to write a master piece and did not achieve it. Or perhaps he did achieve it, and paradoxically that great book would be the diary, in which he reflected the daily search for that masterpiece.

With the possible exception of Paludes- a short work of genius which could have been written by Queneau – the rest of what Gide wrote is fairly illegible nowdays, the modern reader sees it as strange, archaic, distant. The diary on the other hand, hough it falls short of gthe masterpieces of Proust and his contemporaires, is today a liteary milestone, one of the great writer diaries that exist, it is a pleasure to read

An insight into Gide, reminds me I have his journals !

This is like his other books it seems as thou the narrator is maybe the writer himself it is a search for style and substance who one writer can find his or her own style the struggle with conveying everyday life in a way how to avoid the mundane every day but also what does ones own introspection have to other to readers? he is inspired by those writers of the 19th century Genet, Renard that brought realism to the for this is a search for what it is to be a writer.A writer looking for a way out of that maze of being a writer with Writers’ block. I enjoyed this Vila-Matas writes with such passion for literature and use often a shadow of himself I was reminded that this wasn’ t the first novel I had read about writer block there is the wonder boys by Michael Chabon which sees the mania of not passing a block but is still writing a huge bok that he has lost control of like are narrator who has lost that spark that makes him a writer. Another view of losing that way to write.

Mac and his Problems by Enrique Vila-Matas

Mac and his problems by Enrique Vila-Matas

Spanish fiction

Original title  –Mac y su contratiempo

Translators – Sophie Hughes and Margaret Jull Costa

Source – personal copy

So now on to the second post booker longlist read and it is a writer that has been featured on the blog three times before and his previous book Dublinesque won the old IFFP Shadow jury in 2013. He is a founder of the order of Finnegan named after a pub in Dublin a group of writers meets every Bloomsday to celebrate Joyce. This is another work of metafiction that works on a number of levels. This is his latest work to be translated to English.

I’m fascinated by the current vogue for posthumous book, and I ‘m thinking of writing a fake one that could appear to be “posthumous” and “unfinished” when in fact it would be perfectly complete, Were I to die during the writing process, the book really would be my “Final, interrupted work<” and that would, among other things, ruin my great dream of becoming a falsifier. Then again, a beginner must be prepared for anythingm and I am just that, a  debutant. My name is Mac

The opening lines and the diary is to serve as an entry to the book he is thinking of writing

This on the surface is the story of a man entering his retirement and deciding to write daily diary about his world and the world around him > The Man Mac has long held the idea of being a writer and since he know has a lit of time on his hands which means he finally has chance to write although his wife Carmen has a suspicion this will all amount to nothing. But mac push on as it is one of the hottest summer in Barcelona his neighbor Starts to wonder why when he gets a collection of short stories from his Neighbour Sanchez that he wrote a number of years ago these stories all to have echoes of other writers as he reads the.collection it mirrors his own life and then his life is getting repetitive the problem is to make is a well-read reader and the works all start to have a feeling of other writers and we see the real and fiction worlds blur and the writers writing blur. As mac dives further into a world of literature as the heat rises his life becomes more like a novel and his diary is having the feeling of a novel, not a diary.

A little early-evening prose. I’ve had my three customary afternoon nips and consulted the horrorscopr in my favourite newspaper. I was astonshed when I read this in the box for my sign. “For Aries, the sun in conjuction with mercury suggest brilliant intuitions that will lead you to belive this prediction and think it;s especially for you

Whoroscope! This time the prediction really did seem to be meant especially for me as if peggy day – the pseudonym of the lady responsible for the horrorscope – had some how gotten wind of my mistake last week

Here is one of the firstg example of how he reads more into things and blurs lines at times

I like this in Parts I love that Vila-Matras is always so enthused about other writers and the works he is a writer that use books and literature as a springboard for his works her it is the danger of writing a diary but having a wish to be a new writing talent but as the book unfold it. We see a man that is drowning in words and novels but as the book goes on the old stories mirror his present and his diary is in the trouble of drowning into a void of fiction as his life cross from the real to the fictional. I felt this was a great idea for a book the references to those great writers the book feels like an idea too far if you know what I mean it has so many twists and turns it isn’t just as snappy as some of his other books which I have loved but I may come back at some time reread it and read a lot of the books and writers that the tales are meant to be like to maybe grasp more of the story. An interesting idea that maybe could be revisited at some point. What did you think of this one ?

Scar by Sara Mesa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scar by Sara Mesa

Spanish fiction

Original title  – Cicatriz

Translator – Adriana Nodal-Tarafa

Source – personal copy

I am back on with Spanish Lit month but also another for Women in translation month. Here I have one that ticks both boxes a Spanish novel from the writer Sara Mesa. The translator chooses to translate this book after reading a copy at a Dalkey archive applied for a literary translator program when she was given this book to read and after reading it new she wanted to Translate it.  She has written a number of novels they all seem to have similar themes to this of male to female relationships and the power within them. She has been a finalist for the Heralde prize in the past and has lived in Sevilla since childhood.

They discuss their childhoods ofteb. They hadsimilar experiences. They get excited telling about their memories, as if they were trading cards. Public school. Working class neighbourhood. Pelikan pencil cases, seasame street, blue sports jackets with white stripes, La piara ham pate for afternoon snack. Sonia scans a childhood picture for him, hoping to get one from him in exchange where she can make out his current features.

The two have a lot in common and chat about there childhoods.

Scar is a story of two characters. Sonia, she is an ordinary woman and goes on the internet chatting in a forum about literature. As she tries to escape her boring life as a data processor entering figures in a computer. So she becomes someone else at night. she meets the mysterious Knut Hamsun we never know his real name. The two starts by talking and over time a relationship develops. He starts to try and get her to write better with first packages of books from writers and also about how to write. But over time he starts to try and get Sonia into other positions by sending her lingerie expensive La perla, she thinks he stole them more and more come and he starts to try and get her mind as he sends more and more CDs, lingerie, perfume even then shoes stockings as the gifts pile up and this odd relationship gets strange as she is both drawn to this man and then scared about what he really wants. from her. She in the time of there relationship marries but after time the relationship with Knut begins again.

The amount you are able to read is amazing, she tells him. Knut comments extensively about Proust. He doesn’t stop insisting that she should read him too, but not just part of his work, not just one book, his entire oeuvre. He suggests that they study him together, that they analyze his work in depth. I would like nothing more in this world than thatr he sayshe claims to have read Buddenbrooks in five days, the brothers Karamzov in four. In another email he copies marge segments of Against the grain and asks her what she thinks of des Essintes’s views.

They both love books and she admires how well read he is

Sara is another of the talented writers to have emerged from Spain in recent years. This is a novel that brings to life a corner of the modern world that hasn’t been touched in literature much that of the online relationships the world has moved on so much in the last twenty year a fair few relationships start online now. This work also shows the dangers of that world. in Sonia and Knut we see a power relationship as Knut lavishes gifts on Sonia a woman caught in a boring world trying to get out of it is a perfect catch for this man. This is a man obsessed with Sonia and also he really wants to model her by sending her the lingerie although she h=never feels right in it and often it never fits her probably. It touches those dark corners of the human world as this is a story of codependents as much a Knut is a dark figure in this book Sonia also wants Knut. This is a wonderful insight into a new world of online forums and what happens when people meet and fall in love or in a co-dependency! Have you read this book or any of the Dalkey Spanish lit series?

The Hedge by Miguel Delibes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Hedge by Miguel Delibes

Spanish fiction

Original title – Parabola del Naufrago

Translator – Frances M. Lopez-Morillas

Source – personal copy

I again add an older writer and her it is one of the stars of post-war Spanish writing one of the Generation of 36 writers Miguel Delibes sat on Chair E of the Spanish Academy from 1975. He wrote about mainly city dwellers that had lost touch with the natural world. He was also considered one of the leading Catholic writers of the second half of the 20th century like Greene and Boll. He won most of the major Spanish lit prizes. His books in English seem to be out of print.

He (Jacinto) appears to be rather meticulous man and he yearns for personal security. A few months ago he went through a very uneasy peroid when he observed the progress made by the adding machines in the office, thinking that the expert calligraphers were a dying breed, but Don Abdon, who is a father to everyone, reassured him with his end-of-the-year speech, when he said that the most perfect electronic brain wasn’t worthy to untie the shoes of a good solid craftsman. That was what Don Abdon said, Don Abdon who is a father to evryone, and this calmed Jacinto, who often, in view of the conquests of technology, belives that he is dispensible and lives of charity.

The quiet Jacinto and his changing workplace as machines take over.

The book follows a caligrapher Jacinto working in an office for the overpowering as he is described Don Abdon he runs the factory but also the town they live in and he is Jacinto’s boss. Jacinto is a loner a sort of everyman. But he is also worried that his job is about to be automated. The boss is described as” the father of them and the mother of the fathers” It is when he has a relatively series of zeros to copy out this meek man finally breaks it is shown when the language we see has the punctation spelled out so it is comma this and full stop that almost showing his mind breaking. He is sent to the town’s country retreat in this remote cabin but far from getting away he is given a bag of seeds to plant and then wakes up the next day to find the cabin he is in cover and surround by one almighty hedge and one of his colleagues is now dog he tries to tunnel burn and otherwise get past the hedge whilst himself seeing his body grow fluffy hair.

Sometimes Jacinto loses his footing , the bend or fork of the hedge fails him and he is again submerged in that vegtable sea and observes that he is asphyxiating and  moves his arms and groans until he comes to the surface again and then he sighs deeply, but as night falls , and the yellow petals closes over the stamens and the enervating odor of the flowers began to spread, Jacinto thinks the end has come , but he tries no to give in he rejects the intoxicating prefume and yells “Damm You!”

The hedge is all around and is hold Jacinto with inside it as he tries to escape it !

This is a strange book Delibes was known for his playful use of language it is shown here in part when we see the punctation seep on to the page out of the reader or Jacintos mind as we see him breaking before he moves to the county and faces a struggle with nature and maybe finally becomes part of nature. It is easy to compare this to Orwell it tells me that on the back of the book itself written in the later years of the Franco regime it is obviously a sideways punch at Franco with the Don Abdin character obviously a veiled Franco esque character . For me I was reminded of the book restraint of beast in the later part of the books as we see the character Jacinto getting trapped in the hedge was like the characters in the book restraint of beast that see themselves fencing themselves in separate from the world.It also showed Delibes love of nature and how he felt people were losing touch with the world around them which it seems was a theme in a lot of his books. Have you read any books by Miguel Delibes ?

 

The House of Ulysses by Julian Rios

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The House of Ulysses by Julian Rios

Spanish fiction

Original title – Casa Ulises

Translator- Nick Caistor

Source – personal copy

Julian Rios wrote his first two books together with the Mexican writer Octavio Paz. He was described by Carlos Fuentes as The most creative and inventive writer of his nation. He is influenced by James Joyce and of modernist and postmodernist writers. He was the editor of the Espiral collection in Spanish that published books by Thomas Pynchon, John Barth, Severo Sarduy and many other writers. He has had a number of his books translated into English and currently lives just outside Paris

Silence! somebody said, and the Cicerone moved on through the white and gold room, explaining the characteristics of those barrel-shaoped Martello towers, about twelve meters high and with two-and-a-half meter thick stone walls, which the English scattered round Dublin and the coasts of Irelan to defend against a possible Napoleonic invasion in support of rebels seeking Irish independence. According to the Cicerone, the matello tower at Sandy Cove was a century old. The Order for it to be built been given on June 16, 1804 – exactly one hundred years earlier

The opening as Stephen and his two friend in the Martello tower as he is also shot at .

Rios talks of Books being Born out of Books as Ulysses is born out of Homers work this book is born out of Joyce’s great book but also the great city of Dublin and it last legacy. It is set out as five characters a Cicerone as he walks through Joyce’s literary day and three other readers as set out in the early chapter ABC a mature female reader from then on called A. A younger female slim dark hair in a Ulysses t-shirt or as she then knows B. Then a tiny man grey hair and beard, with a pipe the Old critic all three have a copy of the illustrated Ulysses and are joined as well by the Man in the Macintosh a sort of computer nerd that uses A mac to give info. The Narrative then Follows Blooms and Daedalus Day chapter by chapter. As most of know the book I pick two highlights the opening chapter Telemachus which saw Buck and Stephen waking in the Martello tower a connection noted here to the Med from the origin of the tower design in the Casa’s of the Mediterranean. This opening chapter is so heavy in means(I have and still love listening to Rejoyce Podcast by the Late Frank Delany that spent a long time on these opening lines) A lot is also mention here with the imagery and use of language. Then jumping forward we have one of my favourite homer Joyce crossover in the Cyclops chapter when Bloom in the pub has an argument with the Nationalist another  chapter steep in meaning from Bloom being a lapsed Jew to being Irish the three readers and the other discuss the chapters, scenes, the setting Dublin 16th June 1904, times and other pieces that Joyce wrote that interconnected to the book.

Two eyes are better than one, A added, puhing his steel-rimmed dark glasses onto his nose with his forefinger as he made to enter the green room.

Yes, C said. That is simpole conclusion of “Cyclops.”

In the land of the blind, the one- eyed man is King, siad A.

“Cyclops” also tells us that all narrow-minded nationalism is blind, C said.

And stupid, A added. Blinkered Jingoism.

Yes, C said, In “CYClops” Joyce satirized intolerance nationalism, xenophobia, Chuvism, Fanaticism, and the intolerance of some Irsih radical groups such as the Fenians, caircatured here in the figue of the Citizen

How Apt this passage is for Now in our times in 115 yers how much has changed !!

This is a tough book to describe as it is a novel about reading deeper into another novel but also the meaning of that novel now in a way. Ulysses is one of the greatest books ever written a lively, broady description of one day in Dublin Life an Event that in Joyce’s own life was his first date with his beloved wife. The characters all reflect parts of Dublin, Joyce and Joyce’s love-hate relationship with the city. Through his five characters, we see what each part of the book meant with the frequent tables telling use the time of the day the location the symbolic items colour, organ, technique, meaning, and correspondence. Now for me, you have to have read or tried to get well into Ulysses to read this book it like many books around Ulysses makes you want to reread it. I also have just got Anthony Burgess old book just back in print also at one-timed called Re-joyce and yes it is time to revel in Joyce one again and for me, this unusual novel is a great starting point for this year’s Spanish Portuguese lit months. Are you a Joyce Fan? Have you read Ulysses have you read this without reading Ulysses?

Lord of all the dead by Javier Cercas

 

Lord of All the Dead

Lord of all the dead by Javier Cercas

Spanish fiction

Original title –  El monarca de las sombras

Translator – Anne McLean

Source review copy

I have reviewed five books by Javier Cercas before four novels and a work of non-fiction he is one of my favorite writers so I am always excited when new work has been translated into English by him. For me, he has a unique talent at telling an individuals story and using that one person’s tale as a wider view of his homeland from that of the storming of parliament in 1982 and the story Lt Col Telero or the tale of one mans lies in the imposter.  This is his latest book and a personal story of a family legend for Cercas last name is Mena and this is the story of Manuel Mena a favorite uncle of his mother that fought on the Republican side during the Spanish civil war.

Manuel Mena was born on April 25,1919. Back then Ibahernando was a remote, isolated and miserable village in Extremadure, a remote, isolated and miserable region of Spain, over towards the border with Portugal, The name of the place contraction of Viva Hernando; Hernando was a Christian Knight who in the thirteenth century contributed to conquering the moors from the city of Trujillo and incorporating it into the possessions of the king of Castil, who presented his vassel with adjoining lands as payment for services rendered to the crown,Manuel Mena was born there, his whole family was born there including his niece, Blanco Mena,including Blanco Mena son Javier Cercas.

A hundred years tomorrow was the birth of Manuel it seemed fitting to publish this review in time for this .

This was a story that Cercas had longed to tell about his own family hero. But in doing so he would have to accept his families past and the fact his father fought for the Franco side in the civil war. Manuel Mena has a lot of similarities to the young character in his book soldier of Salamis where the young man in that saves a leaders life and is a hero what here made Manuel Mena the family hero he was and this is what  Javier sets out to find out paint his early life in remote isolated town how he came from young boy to the man who in two short years left the village and died from wounds before his turned nineteen. Cercas finds that a man in a famous family photo of Manuel and his fellow soldiers. he interviews this man and finds out more how his uncle was injured and died in the largest battle of the war. Then another photo was taken as he posed with his cap to one side and looking relaxed before he went to the front. Cercas compares his uncle’s wartime service to That of Drogo in Dino Buzzatis work The Tartar Steppe or of a character in a work by Kis. He discovers a man caught in time and maybe we all have a family Hero.

The top two buttons of the jacket are left undone, as is the right brest pocket : this delibrate carelessness allows a better view of the white shirt and black tie , both similarely spotless. It is striking how thin he is; in fact, his body seems unable to fill out his uniform: it is the body of a child in the clothing of an adult.The position pf his right arm is also striking, with his forearm crossed in front of hisabdomen and his hand clutching the inside of his elbow, in that gesture does not seem natural but diocated by the photographer (we might also imagine the photographer suggesting the jaunty angle of the peaked cap, which cast a shadow over Manuel Mena’s right eyebrow) But what is most striking is his face, it is unmistakeably, a childish face, or at most adolescent

Manuel Mena in a photo is still a child in the army.

I was reminded in this novel of  my own family hero story of my own grandfather that served in the Africa and Italy during ww2 but told a story of a first aid box he constantly had during the war after getting in trouble for leaving it behind once the one story he told of his war really but he was on the cover of the telegraph liberating an Italian village with his fellow tank drivers . What Cercas does  is remind us how important these single stories of are the war every family has a Manuel Mena in there past and that is what reminds us how horrific a war is the loss of this pone boy barely an adult in his jaunty hat in the biggest battle of the civil war has a ripple effect that leads to this book to his mother grief at the loss of this beloved uncle she briefly knew. That ends with Cercas finding the battleground where his great uncle passed. I discussed this earlier on twitter and was told it was a favorite of a Spanish translator I said for me it was great but I still loved the Anatomy of a moment.

Nocilla Lab by Agustin Fernandez Mallo

Nocilla Lab  by Agustin Fernandez Mallo

Spanish fiction

Original title – Nocilla Lab

Translator – Thomas Bunstead

Source – review copy

There are two books that finish a series of novels that could be in the Man Booker longlist when it comes out in a few day and thet are The end by Karl Ove Knausgaard, I read but never got around to reviewing this epic book and the end of his cycle of books. Here we have another the last in the Nocilla trilogy by the Physicist turned writer Agustin Fernandez Mallo. This is the last of his series that was herald as a new style of writing in Spain when the books came out and lead to him become part of the Nocilla generation.

True story, very significant too, a man returns to the deserted city of Pripyat, near chernobyl, a place he and the reat of the poulace fled following the nuclear reactor disaster 5 years before, walks the empty streets, which, like the perfectly preserved buildings, take him back to his life in the city, his efforts as a construction worker here in the 1970’s were not for nothing, comes to his own street, scans the tower block for the windows of his former flat, surveying the exterior for a couple of seconds, 7 seconds,15 seconds, 1 minute, before turning the camera around so that his face is in the shot and saying, not sure, not sure this is where my flat was, the gazes up at the forest of windows again and says , not to the camera.

The odd opening of the first story has a rrapid feel to the writer writing it as we read it.

This book differs from its previous two books as it is less jumpy in its style what we have in this is three tales two novellas and a graphic novella if there is such a thing. What the first story is about a couple who are on a trip around the world the story is made up of little stories about their travels and the places they have been around the world until when they are in Thailand and the boyfriend crashes this is where we get this recounting of there travels mixed with books he has read especially Music of hance by Paul Auster where the main character Juliet spends a year traveling in her Saab but gets to pick up a man who leads her life down a different path and this is maybe what Mallo is trying to capture the book is a single eighty page sentence that captures the travels in the now although they were in the past and gave the writer time to write his trilogy the title of the collection is Automatic search engine which is maybe how Mallo’s mind works at time a series of jumps that rabbit hole of googling discovery and if you are sat recalling a trip the net would add the dimension it does here a sort of padding to the story . the next story follows a couple around Sardinia this tale is simpler as it is more on the mundane side of life those little everyday events. as the travels follow the project is this the same couple? The last part is a graphic novel where the writer himself is the main character.

10.

In the days that followed, without straying far from the area we’d been exploring, we returned the car and hired another, a slightly larger Lancia. I can’t remember the model.

The weather stayed stormy, and once or rtwice we got caught on beaches.

The second story as tyou see with this brief extract has a very different feel to the first story a simple mundane tale in a way.

It is another interesting book from Mallo he has really tried to break the mold of what fiction is in a way he is like his science background experimenting with how stories work first here with a stream of words a Beckett like babble that comes together as a man tries to outpour what has happened to him I was reminded of the Beckett piece, not I, I have the sense it would work in the same way when reading at a speaking speed.  The second is almost testing if you tried to make a story as mundane as possible with just every day a sort of modern take on the kitchen sink drama of the sixties where a trip to Sardina comes down to the everyday events of life. The last is an autofiction take on the graphic novel. This book isn’t as adventurous as the earlier two but in a way is maybe the most accessible of the series for that. I hope it makes the longlist for me this is the sort of fiction we should be championing the ones that make the reader work at times.

 

Nocilla Experience by Agustin Fernandez Mallo

Nocilla Experience by Agustin Fernandez Mallo

Spanish fiction

Original title – Nocilla Experience

Translator – Thomas Bunstead

Source – review copy

I had the third part of the trilogy of novels from Agustin Fernandez Mallo. It reminded me that I hadn’t reviewed the second part after reading it so a quick rereading today Christmas eve. He is one of the leading lights of Spanish fiction and his books test the barrier of what fiction is this is similar to the first book Nocilla dream which I reviewed a couple of years ago. He is a writer that mix styles and almost cut his piece into small chunks. Here some chapters are only a few lines long, other glimpses of personal stories.

Henry Darger died at his Chicago home in 1970, having played out what is the strangest, most solitary episode in the history of art. He believed to have been born in Brazil in 1892. When he was four he lost his mother, who died giving birth to a girl who was later given up for adoption . Henry never met this sister. Soon after, bith Henry and his father were admitted to mental institutions. Henry’s diagnosis was that “His heart is not in the right place”.He never saw his father again after that.

Darger maybe a perfect example of the Loner a modern man before Modern men appeared he wrote a 15000 page book no one read!

How to describe a novel by Mallo it is a hard thing as it is ideas stories and concepts in one package. But with this rereading, I got into the rhythm of his writing. It is like when I was young and used shift through the radio stations and dipped in and out of shows. I loved listening to the shortwave and the old Russian and US propaganda stations and This reminds me those years clips of stories like clips from the book at bedtime. Marc a Spanish man reads old agriculture guides and sorts mathematical formulas and lives in the present via the net a lonely man may be a reflection of the modern man. interrupted with clips of dialogue from Apocalypse now another lonely man as we have martin Shaws words as he waits in Saigon for that fateful mission. Then we have a Us soldier that has a son that is born in Iraq when he is station there John Smith has an Iraqi son. Then we have a number of connections to Henry Darger and his work around the Vivian Girls. Darger, I knew off after seeing a documentary a number of years ago I imagine Mallo may have seen the same documentary was largely unknown in his own life only when he died it was discovered a 15000-page work off written and drawn of this world he had invented and a great battle there. He also references a song by Sufjan Stevens a singer I love and one worth checking out he has one song about Darger A later number of chapters in the book see a Mexican Chico as he makes his way through the US after crossing the border.

Marc consults the Philips agricultural guide 1968. The section on “Cowsheds and other outbuildings” Contains a description of how to put together a toilet for a washroom to go with the milking stalls. He turns the diagram around to see how to adapt his toilet to his hut. He can’t concentarte, His mind keeps being drawn back to a theory he’s pndered for a number of years now, one which fits into something bigger anf broader, which he calls socio-physical theory. The sphere of action, the testing ground, would extend no further than 2 or 3 blocks around the roof terrace. The neighbourhood contains everything he needs comestibles, mundane conversations and seasonal clothing made from polyester. The theory is intended to demonstrate in mathematical terms that solitude is a property , a stat, natural in a btter sort of human being and , to the end

Another nod to modenr men and the solitude in Marc a man using old gudies and gripped in theroies of the world around him.

I fell in love with Mallo style this time around. I struggle with the first book but this time I got his style the jumping in and out of lives is a style I have seen in various films of the last twenty years Magnolia is a good example as it also mix facts at time like this does with a number of interviews with the cream of indie music over the last twenty years maybe the questions are similar they are about what makes each of them whether they are still punk or the impact etcetera. Then Shaw’s lines from Apocalypse now which sees the opening dialogue he had to extend bit by bit as he is in Saigon. Then we have other facts scattered through the book about the likes of Alan Turing, Malcolm Gladwell, and ancient sayings. Mallo tackles the modern way of viewing the world where we tend to jump from here to there as we get stuck down Google tunnels at times. As I said it is a work that drifts but maybe behind it all is what it is like to live in the Modern world.

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