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.

This too shall pass by Milena Busquets

Image result for milena busquets this too shall pass

This too shall pass by Milena Busquets

Spanish fiction

Original title – También esto pasará

Translator – Valerie Miles

Source – review copy

I was sent this last year but it wasn’t to this week when I was looking for a couple of short books to cover whilst reading a longer book as well to give me some books to review. Milena Busquets book had been a best seller around Europe and in many ways is a perfect summer book as it is set in the summer in Spain. Milena got a degree in archaeology from university college London then she worked for her family publishing house and has worked in PR and translations since then. This book was longlisted for the Impac award.

For some strange reason, I never considered what it would be like to be forty. When I was tweny, I could imagine myself at thirrty, living with the love of my life and a bunch of kids. Or at sixty, baking apple pies with my grandchildren – me who can’t boil an egg to save my soul, but I would learn. Even at eighty, as an old bag drinking whisky with my girlfriends,But I never imagined myself at forty, not at fifty either,And yet here I am

Blanca never saw herself as middleaged she went from youngest with kids to old age this is her main problem!!

The book starts with Blanca the main character in the book dealing with her own mother’s death and funeral. She then decides to visit her mother seaside holiday home with those she considers her closest friends, lovers, and family. Her two best friends, her two sons, her two ex-husbands and her lover. this is almost like a setting for a Spanish Woody Allen film. In fact the themes within the book. Are those that are most common within Woody  Allen’s films that is of oncoming Middle age. This In Blanca case is driven by the death of her mother.(As someone like Blanca that lost my mother early I know the effect on one’s life and view of life) . The next themes are sex this in Blanca case as we see through this book is almost used to plot out the pain of the loss of her mother. Then there is Death another come theme in Allen films death of family but also the death of relationships is another underlying theme. So over the summer, we see a woman coming to terms with what happened to her. So we see a woman trying to grip on to those younger years drinking and drugs are mentioned a lot and parties but then we see her own children on the edge of coming into the age where this will be their world. A heady mix of sun, sex, and sangria.

To the best of my knowledge.the only thing that momentarily alleviates the sting of death – and lfe – without leaving a hangover is sex. It only lasts a few seconds, though; maybe a little linger if you fall asllep afterwards. But then the fuinture , the clothes, the memories, the lamps, the panic, the grief, everything that had been shooshed up into the The wizard of Oz tornado comes right back down and falls into its place in the room, in the head, in the belly. I open my eyes and it’s not garlands of flowers and singing dwarfs that I see, no ; I’m lying in bed next to my ex,

I loved this description of how she fell into bed with an ex, this remind me some what of something Woody Alllen would say.

This maybe isn’t the first book I would have chosen to read it isn’t my usual read. But I enjoyed the style it has a follow as we follow the stream of consciousness narrative of Blanca’s world as she spends her summer in Cadaques. This brings to mind classic modernist piece like Mrs  Dalloway where a woman confronts here world over a night here we see a woman wrestling with the modern female problems which is much different Mrs Dalloways problems. Blanca is very much a self-centred woman but we see her struggling and trying to get on with her life. But for me, this had a lot in common with Woody Allen films the feeling of a female instead of a male facing what their life is and maybe falling into the arms of a number of people over the course of the book.

The blind spot by Javier Cercas

 

The Blind Spot_HB.jpg

The Blind spot by Javier Cercas

Spanish Essay

Original title -El punto Ciego

Translator – Anne Mclean

Source – review copy

I am loving the fact that in recent years there has been more and more non-fiction lit book been translated into English. This time it is one of my favorite Spanish writers Javier Cercas. I have featured his novels on the blog before four of them all of which have made me question what a novel is? This is in part the question he answers or tries to answer in this book. This book is formed from a series piece he had read or written before thus formed into a book-length essay on various aspects of the novel.

In 209 I published a book , called The anatomy of a moment, which at the time the Majority if Spanish readers did not consider a novel; I myself, althoug I knew or felt that it was a novel, would not allow my editor to present it as one. Why?

Anatomy explores a decisive momnet in the recent history of Spain. It happened the last time we Spaninards practised our national sport, which is not football as tend to think, but Civil war or , failing that a coup d’etat; at least until very recently; after all, up until very recently all experiments with democracy in Spain were ended by Coup d’etat, to such an extent that in the last two centuries there were more than fifty of them.

I loved the football piece in this opening to a chapter about his book on the 1981 coup attempt.

The first thing that captures in this book is the cover which depicts the great white whale of Moby Dick and is the same cover as the Spanish version of the book. The points that Cercas fix on is one the Blind spot of the title in the Novel. That is the question in some books that seem central to the book that can go unanswered the perfect example of this is Quixote where Cercas points out, the question is Don Quixote crazy or Not. Other examples are for Example in Kafka trial what is Josef K exactly accused off! Waiting for Godot the blind spot is Godot himself. The more Cercas mentions examples the more I thought of myself I thought of the blind spot of what is happening to Europe in regards right-wing politics in Dasa Drndic Belladonna(I choose a fellow Maclehose book as this for me was an example I thought of when reading this piece.) Then he also asks the question which I have asked at times and that is about his book The Anatomy of a moment and how you classify a novel like this which walks the line between being reportage, history, and fiction. I go back to the word I was told there is in Slovenian for just good writing that defies categories. He also mentions books like HHHH and in cold blood, also New Journalism which was started by the likes of Tom Wolfe and expands this into a third novel for on top of the two that he had heard Milan Kundera. These are the digressive novel like Quixote and the second the realist novel with books from Zola and Dickens. Cercas says the third movement is writers like Calvino and Perec as he says Postmodern Narrative and may the anatomy of a moment belongs here.

Let’s get back to the question of form.

Vargas llosa considers himself a realist writer, This means in short, that each one of his novels aspires ideally to cinstruct a fictious reality as powerful and persuassive as real reality, a hermetic world fabricated out of words in which to enclose the reader under lock and key to make him live through a vicarous experince. That is Vargas Llosa objective, and to that objective the moral framework and formal arrangment of all his novels are subordinated.

A piece about Llosa and in particular his debut novel The time of the hero

As you can see I loved this essay series as it was one of those books that made me as a reader want to discover more about the books discussed in the essays. But also in a way found some answers to my own blind spots as a reader of Cercas work and that is how he views his own worker, in particular, The anatomy of a moment which for me when I read it eight year ago this week early on in the life of this blog was one of the books that drove me forward as a blogger as it was such a clever novel and since then it has led to  a quest for me as a reader to push the boundaries of what we call fiction in the books I read  and also what drives us as readers. Also to what connects books from different places like Cercas highlights here  with the blind spot is an example of a thread that can link a lot of great books together from around the world.

 

The Dinner Guest by Gariela Ybarra

 

Image result for gabriela ybarra the dinner guest harvilThe Dinner Guest by Gabriela Ybarra

Spanish fiction

Original title – El Comensal

translator -Natasha Wimmer

Source – review copy

Well I had initially had decided not to do all this year’s man booker longlist. But when this year’s longlist came out. I had reviewed so little but read a number of the books. This was due to be reviewed this week so I have moved it forward as I now have a number of books to review and luckily have start ten days off work. Gabriela Ybarra is a new writer this is her debut novel. is from Bilbao but now lives in Madrid.This book won the Euskadi Literature prize.

The story goes that in my family there’s an extra dinner guest at every meal. He’s invisible, but always there. He had a plate,glass, knife and fork. Every so often he appears, cast his shadow over the table and erases one of those present.

The first to vanish was my grandfather.

The opening lines and the spare chair at there dinner table for the The dinner guest.

The book follows Gabriela as she looks back into her family history and two main events that have shaped her present. The first is the death a number of years before the birth of Gabriela her grandfather disappeared. When three men from ETA appeared at her grandparent’s house and took him away at gunpoint.He later dies after a failed kidnapping that led to his death. Then her own mother died of cancer as she was growing up. The title refers to the habit of living a space at the dinner table for a missing guest a blank space to be filled with the spirit of those once there. As she grows up Gabriela in the present decides to reach out and discover about her past using google , but as we do we see other rabbit holes on the internet she falls down like after reading a book by Robert Wasler leads her on a google search and shock when the second picture has a dead body in it. This is a story of families past present and trying to discover your own past when it has been clouded by family. Also discovering a grandfather she never knew a man that stood for so much and life was ended before she was even there.

Robert Walser 15 April, 1878- 25 December, 1956. Buried in 2011 with three hundred thousand other photographs of himself in google images.

In thins book the writer goes out for a walk one morning in 1917. He must have done the same thing that Christmas day, about four decades later.Perhaps sitting in his room at the Herisau asylum and thought it had been years since he gave up writing

The picture is of the dead writer Robert  Walser in a snow just a single file of footprints the picture is in the novel.

This is a style of book that Spanish writers seem to love writing a true life novel I have like the two novels in recent years by Javier Cercas  the Imposter and  Anatomy of a moment that have a similar feel to this taking real life and turning it to fiction. But not quite as closely as this has to Gabriela as this is her own family history she is disecting  not with the slashing cuts the Karl Ove does with his life this is a small piece of her life that she has put under the microscope and brought her Grandfather into the now an event six years before her birth has haunted and fascinated her life only the memory of what her late mother had told her. This shows how close the past can be through modern tech we are never far away from finding out what happened on a certain day something twenty years ago would have taken a few days to put together is now there at the touch of a button so this is a modern novel from a new Spanish writer and a great first step on this year’s man Booker longlist.

The Impostor by Javier Cercas

 

The Impostor by Javier Cercas

Spanish Non-Fiction

Original title – El Impostor

Translator – Frank Wynne

Source – review copy

Well, a change from German lit month for a book from one of my favourite Spanish writers of recent years. Javier Cercas has featured on the blog three times before. This is his latest book to be translated. He has won the Iffp prize in the past.Also has been the Impac Dublin book prize longlist a couple of times. This book is rather like his earlier book Anatomy of a moment as it uses an actual historical event as the start of the book. This is a look at one man Enric Marco. He was thought to be a champion of the Unions with a history of fighting fascism a survivor of the Nazi death camps and opposed Franco.

On May 11 2005, the truth was discovered: Enric Mrco was an impostor. For the previous twenty-seven years Marco had claimed to be prisoner No. 6448 from German conce/ntration camp Flossenburg: He had lived this lie and had to made it live: for almost three decades, Marco gave hundreds of talks about his experiences of the Nazi regime, he was president of the Amical de Mauthausen, the association of Spanish survivors of Nazi camps, he was awarded notable honours and medals and on January 27 2005, he moved many members of both houses of the Spanish parliment to tears ..

He spoke so well on what wasn’t his life but anothers .

The book begins at the point when in 2005 He was unmasked as a fake.Cercas met him four years after that but it wasn’t until a few years later he decides to try and find the truth behind the man and his story. Marco is an enigma as the first part of the story shows called Onion skins like Gunter Grass whose biography is called Peeling the onion. We peel the layers away from the man and his story. The time Marco choose to invent his history is about write a time when people could still make up a past if they wanted. He is a man that wanted to be more than he was. He wanted to be a hero also a champion of the underdog. But as he rose in the public eye the lies he had told became harder to hide.He had been in a German Prison. He went to Germany as a worker not a prisoner from the republic. when he was in the civil war he went to France and was arrested as a criminal, not to a death camp.He rose to be the leader of the Spanish organisation for prisoners of the death camps and their families. it was just as they were to celebrate sixty years as the story of his deception broke he wasn’t in the camp he said he was and his story starts to unfold.

Marco was born in an asylum ; his mother was insane.Is he mad too? is this his secret, the condrum that explains his personality? is this why he always sided with the majority ? Does this explain everything, or does it at least explain the essentials ? And if Marco truly is mad, what is thhe nature of his madness.

Now, this is a great piece of narrative non-fiction like his earlier book Anatomy of a moment. Cercas has chosen a historic event to explore his own countries past, but this through one man’s journey.This book is around maybe at just  the right time. We are so interested in real life tales with the podcast like S town and serial. There is a saying that truth is often stranger than fiction and Enric Marco is an example. He was bigger than Billy Liar. His story held up longer than the fake 9/11 victim that like Marco wanted to be held up as a hero and also fight for the victims. This is a study of what makes a man lie! Then the snowball effect of those lies, how when the ball is rolling it was hard to turn back time and stop it. Till like in Marcos case it is a final event that explodes his world open. As ever frank has brought a poetic tone to Cercas words. This is a tale of a man’s twisted journey he did good but is that enough for the lies? Marco is an enigma even after this I still not sure what to make of him.

Previous Older Entries

December 2019
M T W T F S S
« Nov    
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031  

Archives

%d bloggers like this: