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.

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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.

That’s how whales are born by Anxos Sumai

THAT’S HOW WHALES ARE BORN

That’s how whale are born by Anxos Sumai

Spanish fiction

Original title –Así nacen as baleas

Translator – Carys Evans-Corrales

Source – review copy

Anxos Sumai is regarded as one of the best writers from Galicia in Spain. She has written four novels and also worked as a radio journalist. She was voted Galician writer of the year in 2007 the year this book came out it also won a prize for short novels. This is another in the series of books that have been sent to me from Small station press who are bringing to us so many new voices from Galicia.

Mother had just turned fifty-five when she decided to lock herself up in her bedroom. The stores had been functioning for a long time without her assistance and were doing well – very well.It was time for her to fall into one of those agonizing maelstroms, because this how it had been throughout her life, When she locked herself into her room she was defeated, yearning to be transported th some place where destiny would be waiting for her. It didn’t matter where: Mother always needed a destiny to set herself into action, to relinquish the voluntary self-exile she would impose on herself when neither death nor her loved pnes could move her at all .

The motherlocked away from her life and the world in pne trying to give up .

The book follows a young woman journey home. Having escaped her family and living in Baja California Mexico where she is studying Marine biology.In particular to do with whales that do crop up as a recurring thought in her mind. The girl receives a call from her Aunt that her mother a figure whom she had numerous problems with her mother. As she returns we found out about her past the mother who never seemed to recover from the husband that left her even now she has shut out the world and lives in her room. The older brother Ramon, a fat boy with a violent temper and disability that is always eating in her mind and then sleeping this was the time they could get around him without him lashing out. The whale at times is a figure she uses for her brother, with the vast appetites. Add a caring Nann the Aunt and Uncle we see a woman struggling to readjust t0 her home but also seeing those around her after returning.Maybe time is right. She is caught up in an affair with her tutor.

Except that the little girl barelyunderstood anything she was being told when Ramon interrupted them, Excuting turns at the entrance to the kitchen, ramon looked like a fat, flabby potato that gyrated and gyrated until he hit one of the walls. The little girl burst out laughin. Ramon made her ;laugh all the time, unless he was asleep.It was like having a clown all to herself, a joyful clown weighing over one hundred kilos.ramon could eat her up if he wanted to. He could eat her up in the same way he could eat a roasted capon all by himself.He could even flatten her when he breathed.

The brother larger than life like a whale a mystery at times

This is an interesting study of a family a modern family. This maybe shows who the dynamics work when there is no father. The problem of having a large than life figure in that of the brother Ramon. He may be overshadowed the narrator(I sense this we never even know her name). THere is a feeling of her runaway but the elastic of her home never quite breaking and being flung back into the family. But with her eyes opened by the trip to Mexico and also maybe having spent time with whales she sees more in her brother Ramon than she did. This is a book about memories the writer has said in interviews also she wants us the reader to draw our own view on the family.The title came from the time she imagined Ramon spending in the tub a fat boy in the tub and a whale ! I really like this book as it does what she wants us as a reader to do and that is thinking about the characters and the situation of an unnamed girl returning to her odd family.

 

Such small hands by Andres Barba

Image of Such Small Hands

Such small hands by Andres Barba

Spanish fiction

Original title – Las Manos pequeñas

Translator – Lisa Dillman

Source – personal copy

Here we have Another of the writers that were on the Granta list of the best 22 Spanish writers. Andres Barba has had another book translated into English. This is the first book by him, I have read. He has written ten novels.He has a number of prizes for his books. He also works as a translator doing the works of Joesph Conrad and Alice in Wonderland being among them.

One day she said , “We have the same name: Marina.”

And what if , like her , Marina started to have fewer memories, hardly any memories,no mermories at all ?

“we have the same name ”

Because dolly was the only one who didn’t lie . She was the only  one calm, as if halfway through a long life. and she looked different from everyone else, Time passed over her, and she remained ever alert, like a visionary, astonished, lashless eyes(broken; now even when you laid her down, they wouldn’t lose)

The doll is the only one she trusted as others lied.

This is a very short novella clocking in at just 86 pages. It only arrived today and I took it with me when I went with Amanda to an appointment and read it whilst she was with the doctor in about an hour. It is the tale of Marina an orphan that has lost her mum and dad in a car crash,  or as she keeps putting it .””My father died instantly and my mother in Hospital. The book opens as she is pulled from the crash. Awaking with a scar on her tum. Also, a number people talking to her trying to get her to open up. One way is to give her a doll. The doll she also gives the name Marina. She is then passed fit to leave the hospital and travel to the Orphanage.This is where the story moves into two narratives her the first Marina,  then a collective voice of the fellow Orphans,  as they greet Marina. The orphanage is a strange world to her all them in bright dresses and the same black shoes. The Orphans aren’t kind to her and we see Marina through their eyes as well as hers in a frightening look at being young and lost in a world of fellow lost souls.Also, the violent and horrific way kids can treat each other.

When class was over we liked to play. We’d sing as the jump rope hit the sand with a dull crack. To get in the circle you had to pay attention, had to calculate the jump rope’s arc, its speed, adapt your rhythm to the chorus. Once you were in you felt exposed, tense, as if each time the rope cracked down, it hit your mouth, or your stomach. with each thump you went around the world.

There is a brutal nature to this play rather like in Lord of the flies which this part remind me of

Another of the current crop of books, I have read from Spanish in recent years.  That has a creepy surreal edge to the narrative two that spring to mind is The children and fever dream. Which both feature children and like this walk a line between real and surrealness. The Orphanage is where this story starts to turn a strange way.  Although the way MArina talks at the time has a vacant feel about it as though her heart has been ripped out of her. The black and whiteness of the statement about her parents hang in the air when she says it. This in Lit terms is an Amuse Buche of a book. A book that sets you as a reader minds racing far beyond it mere 86 pages. Also have to say the cover is rather creepy to this book as well.

An Animal called Mist by Ledicia Costas

 

AN ANIMAL CALLED MIST

An Animal Called Mist by Ledicia Costas

Spanish (Galician) fiction

Original title  FF

Translator – Jonathan Dunne

Source – Personal copy

Well it is near the end of the second month of Spanish lit month and the end of woman in translation month so I decide to combine both with this review another from the small publisher Small station who have been brought out the brightest voices from Galician in the last few year I have reviewed a number of their books this is another and a new writer to this blog. Ledicia Costas has mainly written for YA and has won prizes for her books including the Galicia prize from Children’s literature. She has also written for TV working in documentaries in particular (according to Wiki).

There’s one part however, that not only impresses him, it bores a hole into his chest: the monlogue by Captain Quint a survivor of the world war II USS indianapolis disaster, relating thr sinking of the ship that carried the uranium and partd of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima to the Mariana Islands. Three minutes abd Forty-seven seconds during which Hunter remains on the alert his fist clenched, his senses fixed on the television screen in a kind of paranormal connection woth Captain Qunint .

Whilst watching JAws Hunter learns of what happen to the Uss idianapolis but wants to know more.

This is a collection of six stories all focus on the second world war. From the opening tale in Leningrad following how the people of the city coped with the famous siege. Then one of those strange things happened that when we are reading books the second story in the collection recounts events on the Uss Indianapolis from the point of view  of someone trying to find out about the ship Hunter Scott  heads to the library the ship was sunk near the end of the war by two torpedos and was the single greatest loss of life for a single ship in the war. This strangely I was reading this last week when the team funded by Paul Allen found the ship itself on the sea floor. THe next story follows the events before and after Enola Gay drop the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the plane following the pilot, student at school an engineer on the train. The two other stories in the collection one follow Italian Partisans and the other uses the actual dialogue of the trials of three Nazi post war including the trial of Goring.

On the morning of 6 August, Aiko, a pupil at the femine school in Hiroshima, had gone out with her friends to do some outdoor acivites. They walked in the vicinty of the river Ota, obvious to the world, in search of flowers to make garlands. It was only a few days until the Floral offering, a festival of colour that celebrated the gifts of nature

The morning waqs a mirror of calm in the surroundings of the river.This was a special place foor Aiko.

On the day the bomb was dropped on the city a girl collects flowers by the river.

This is a collection of voices and stories from the war that don’t read like history but actual events although she seems to squeeze the story around the events, I like the way she choose the every man to show the nature of the human condition and a child  trying to discover about the Indianapolis as they don’t believe it actually happened and this is maybe what can be said about this collection it shows that Truth is often stranger than fiction. We see the fragility of life at times those souls on the ground before the bombs arrive and then the other side of nature the brutal side with those voices from the Nazi trials. This shows what is called Great prose elsewhere those tales that walk the fine line between fiction and non-fiction.

 

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