That was the month that was July 2020

  1. The treasure of Spanish civil war by Serge Pey
  2. Montano by Enrique Vila-Matas
  3. A glass eye by Miren Agur Meabe
  4. Fracture by Andres Neuman
  5. Vicious by Xurxo Borrazas
  6. Hunter School by Sakinu Ahronglong
  7. Rolling Fields by David Trueba
  8. A beautiful young woman by Julián López
  9. The day my Grandfather was a hero by Paulus Hochgatterer

It was the first of two months of Spanish lit month last month so we had a Spanish feel to the books reviewed last month. We started with a French novel set in Spain from a writer descended from a Spanish civil war refugee that grew up in a camp. THen a man is plagued by people creeping in as he tries to Write. Then we Had a Basque novel about a woman with a glass eye and a sort of history of the Glass eye in with it. Argentina is next stop a book set in Japan written by the wonderful Andre Neuman. THen a man on the run a story with a number of timelines intertwined and a baroque feel to the work. Then off to Taiwan and a young man learn his hunting techniques and the shrinking world around him. Then another son takes his father home and evaluates his life as a singer-songwriter as he does. Then back to Argentina and a son remembering his mother in fragments. I finish in the Austrian hills and a young girl and a Russian on the run in the last days of world war two.

Books of the month

First is Andre Neuman his story of one man that saw the bombs dropped on Japan and destroyed his home town then in the present the destruction of the nuclear power in the present,  as he is asked about these events and times by an Argentinan journalist. This is my Spanish lit month choice.

I had to chose this as it is such a touching book a son on his father a hard man to like but one that had taught him to hunt and he sees the world of his tribe shrinking around him over the passage of time. Also the environmental damage of these changes over his lifetime.

NOn-book matters

Well life is slowly freeing up we have a few more things to do one of those is swimming which I have enjoyed doing this last week or so getting up to pre lockdown levels of swimming which hurt but after a day or two I noticed my muscles hurt less. Another treat has been a coffee  the first in a few months still being very careful but this isn’t over yet. I also brought the 40th-anniversary edition in the vinyl of Joy Divison second albm unknown pleasures a haunting Album it also had three singles  in 12 include that came out from them around the same time including the towering Love will tear us apart

Next month

Well, a few more books from Spanish world. I m nor sure yet  100% yet I also have a couple of books the Balkans and Quebec to read. I  also hope to get near to ten books to try and get back near 100 books for the year, What are your plans for August. What was your highlight for July book wise ?

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.

The treasure of the Spanish civil war by Serge Pey

The treasure of the Spanish civil war by Serge Pey

Franco- Spanish fiction

Original title – Le Trésor de la guerre d’Espagne

Translator – Donald Nicholson Smith

Source – review copy

I have gone for my first read for Spanish lit month with a French novel. Well, this is a French writer that grew up in one of the concentration camps that was home for those who escape Franco regime. Serge Pey is a child of Spanish civil war refugees. He is well known as an artist and performance artist. So yes my first book is a Spanish sounding writer that is French but this is a book that could only be written in French a piece of history that has n’t been written about much or mentioned much.

The boy watched an eagle wheeling in the sky. As though harnessed to an invisible noria, the majestic bird drew all the sunshine towards the two of them where they stood amidst shadows. The boy would remember this. The man kept silent for a long while, observing the eagle as it turned towards the mountain, perhaps to check its worl and draw the sun to another valley. At last the manturned and spokje to the boy.

“Give me you knife”

The man gutted the piglet and wrapped it in leaves, then dug a hole and lit a fire with dry wood. When he had glowing embers he placed the animal’s spread eagled carcass on them and cover it with soil.

A boy sees an eagle as they eat the pig they cooked on the run

The stories here were published in France as a novel of interlinking stories. They are all set around the fifties and the camp were Serge himself grew up. The stories all can stand alone a couple of characters reappear. The first story follows a boy as he tries to escape some guards with his father a couple of interesting images an eagle wheeling overhead like a Spanish water wheel as the guards’ circle in the boy finds a snail then he ends up snail-like in a hole hiding away. Then later on how they learned french watching the dub films in the cinema in the camp. Then how the guards used many of the kids when they arrived to teach them to torture the other kids in the camp in the story a piece of wood. A boy buying horse meat meant only for a dog is that hungry he is tempted to eat it but then thinks of another young child that ate it and end up ill. These are tales that Serge must have heard and seen around the camp the lives of these lost souls retold. The harsh world they lived in.

The boy waited for the butcher’s van. He had spent three days longing to  buy meat for dogs. He chose the moment when the butcher was packing up to ask the man for dog meat. The man tossed him some horsemat wrapped in newspaper, telling him that the dog would have a feast and assuring him that the meat was fresh.

Trembling the boy thrust the paclage under his shirt. He wentround the back of the house to find the dog, which was in the kennel, In the ditch by the fig tree he opened up the blood-soaked newspaper. And then, without consultation between boy and dog, the two fell upon the meat

A boy buy horse meat uncoocked that is meant just for dogs or else you fall ill

This is a collection of vignettes there is a sense of stories the writer had heard when young he was a child when the stories are set this is the world he grew up in his parents, friends, and families in this collection there is a sense of a world where the extreme has become the normal his translator said it is like magic realism or surreal all thou he hated the terms this is a world where things are different. Yes he has some great imagery in his prose that sometimes are too poetic more than prose driven but how else can you face this horrific world. The violent harsh reality in the world often seen through a child’s eye. this isn’t a large collection just over 130 pages and it is a small archipelago book as well.A world not written much about these lost voices of Franco’s exiles need to be heard as it is a remind of the horror of war but also the fate that fell them when they reached the camps in France !

Welcome to spanish lit month 2020

It has come round again this ishas been running since 2012 which actually I had chosen Enrique vila matas as a featured writer so it seems nice to return to him and also Javier Marias. Then in August we have Three trapped tigers by Guillermo Cabrera Infante. and recounting by Luis Goytisolo.

Here is a collection of links  to do with Spanish lit

I promised a few links for Spanish lit month –

El Mundo the best 25 books from Spanish 1989 (thanks Arcadia books for link their Blind sunflowers is on the List ,plus two books by Juan Marse that Maclehose is publishing soon .

Scauffi has a longer list here in Spanish a lot of Marquez on this one

The telegraph has ten best Latin American novels here,Not all Spanish but mostly

Flavourwire has another list without  Marquez of best Latin American fiction

and there is a few more links and lots of Spanish fiction on my co-host Richards Blog

You can also find many books here from Spain ,Chile ,Argentina and many others in my books read section.

Look forward to seeing what you choose !!

 

Spanish Lit Month 2020 July/August

I will take a quick post here as it is Bloomsday and in a sort of strange link will mention this year’s Spanish Lit month. Richard and I have run this for a number of years I have reverted this year to just the Spanish speaking world for this year the last few years we had to add Portuguese lit. But this year we will stick to Spain and the Spanish speaking world. Well here is to the Link to Bloomsday that is in the first month July I love [eople to review a book by either Javier Marias or Enrique Vila- Matas the two giants of Spanish lit have mention James joyce or Ulysses in their books.  Vila-Matas is inspired to write Dublinesque by Joyce’s great book and Marias wrote about Joyce in his book Written Lives. You are free to read any other book over the two months but a few reviews of each writer would be great.

Then In August, I give you a choice of two reads that have been compared to Ulysses the first is Three trapped tigers by Guillermo Cabrera Infante. A book I reviewed a number of years ago here. I mentioned then the feeling of a Latin American Ulysses with a jazz beat. The second book and the book I will be reading is Antagonía part one Recounting which is part of a four-book series that Dalkey Archive is bringing out over the next few years hopefully. 

What recently from the Spanish speaking world have you enjoyed this last year? Any recommendations for your fellow readers?

Spanish and Portuguese Lit month 2019

It is coming up soon it will be July and August and for the last few years that has been Spanish and Portuguese lit month. I usually run it with Richard from Caravana de Recuerdos   Well Richard has decided to take a back seat and won’t be co-hosting this year. I am not the most oprganised person but will try and get a links page sorted for July for people to post links here are two reminders of the countries covered by the two languages

 

 

 

Image result for spanish speaking countries

 

 

 

Here is the spanish languages countries and their flags sorry it isn’t the clearest pic best I could find and now the Portuguese countries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am concentrating on those writers from the Latin American boom years for my months this year. Here is a guide to the writers you coukld choose some boom and a few post-boom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This map is a good starting point. You can choose whoever you want I may point you in Charco Press direction as they have been bringing some great contemporary Latin American fiction.  I have decide on a book for everyone to try and post on in the last week of August. To do a reread and a book I loved more than twenty years ago and a cornerstone of Latin American boom literature…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes it is Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s 100 years of solitude set in the fictional town of Macondo a place Marquez used in other works like Leaf storm before this book and is often seen in other books by him but not always as Macondo it is set on his childhood home of Aracataca. I’m sure many readers of this blog have read this book but how many of us have blogged about it?  I have covered five books by him in this blogs time but neither this or love in the time of cholera so far so in part I am putting this right. I will put a list of other books I am choosing near the time. What have you in mind to read ? will you be joining me in reading 100 years of solitude?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Fado Alexandrino by António Lobo Antunes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fado Alexandrino by António Lobo Antunes

Portuguese literature

Original title – Fado Alexabdrino

Translator – Gregory Rabassa

Source – Personal copy

When I choose to expand out Spanish lit month to include literature from Portuguese, one of the  writers I had in mind was another book by Antunes, I read knowledge of hell a couple of years ago and after that brought a number of his books to read in recent years he has been on the list of possible Nobel prize winners. This book is considered his best book. Antunes like the men in this book served in the military in Africa, he also worked as a doctor with men after the wars in Africa as a Psychiatrist.

“I was married and had a daughter this high “the second lieutenant said, smiling at the spoons the waiter was serving the mear with. “I was living on the Rue da Mae d’Agua, below the fountain, and after intimacies, even with the light off, I could see the round ball of the paper lamp, looking like an enormus moon, sowing Japanese ghosts in the darkness.(The breathing of his wife beside him and of his daughter in the otger room flooded the floor with a murmur of sounds that rose and sank like the soft flutter of a dress.

The men recall better days at times but always with a sense of loss in the words the say.

Fado Alexandro is a book in three parts that follow five men through the periods of their lives. Thye five men although four tell the story the fifth the captain of the men is in the background, the men are all in the military a soldier, a Lieutenant Colonel, a communication officer and a second lieutenant. The book opens in the years before the Revolution in Portugal and the war in Mozambique they all take apart, in fact, not all came back. Then there is the fall of the regime in the Carnation revolution, it is part of what happens there that cause the rest of their lives to go on the paths they did. Both lieutenants marriages fail and they take up with the different woman as one wife was upper class and a large amount is remembered of how hard it was for them to get together. Then there is buying a young girl in Africa. A death and the communication officer’s daughter tells her father story in the later section. The book follows the four as they all are scarred by war and their relationships with woman.

“Four of these lady friends plus the four  of us make eight hot whores ,” the lieutenant colonel told the second lieutenant , still suspious of the champagne , massaging his stomach. “What will your neighbours say when they see us ?”

Me, for example, I’m my mother, he thought , a ridiculous old woman who wore gauze, rings perfume, makeup and creams , her artifical nylon eyelashes fluttering like insect winhs, clumsily attempting to seduce the grocer in hop of a little discount on a jug of wine, because I started drinking towards the end of my life,

THe view of woman isn’t the best at times

This is a complex book about the time that followed the fall of Estado Novo regime following a coup by the military. The many wars in Africa as the Estado Novo tried to keep the old Portuguese colonies under their rule, in this case, Mozambique, Antunes spent time in Angola but both wars were very brutal in what happened there. Through the five men we see the brutal nature of the war is recounted in the stream of consciousness of the men’s lives and relationships, in particular, the  wives, woman they fuck and women the don’t fuck these are very nasty men in their natures All this book like Ulysses happens over one night as the four remaining men meet for a meal and get very drunk and recount their stories as record in the novel. So there is a sense at times of lines of the men and their stories blending that thing you get as men with a shared experience and recounting it the who, what, why and how can get blurred sometimes.  A powerful of men and war from a European version of what happened to American Vietnam in Africa.

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