Leaf storm by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

leaf storm by Gabriel garcia Marquez

Leaf storm by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Columbian fiction

Original title – La Hojarasca

Translator – Gregory Rabassa

Source – Personnel copy

From the memory of that house ,and using his grandmother’s narrative voice as his own Linguistic Lodestone ,Marquez began building of Macondo

Salman Rushdie from his essay collection Imaginary homelands on Marquez

Well this is the first of a number of books I intend to review by Gabriel Garcia Marquez ,we lost this giant of Spanish language and Latin American writing earlier this year ,so it seemed fitting to focus for a few days in this times Spanish lit month on his books ,plus it will give me chance to add a few more to the two I have already reviewed here .In a side not I will be carrying on a bit into August with Spanish lit month so if you Haven’t had time to read something or would maybe like to cross over with Women in tranlsation month .

I’ve seen a corpse for the first time .It’s wednesday but I feel as if it was sunday because I didn’t go to school and they dressed me up in a green corduroy suit that’s tight in some places .Holding Mama’s hand ,following my grandfather ,who feels his way along with a cane with every step so he won’t bump into things .

The opening lines the grandsons view of the doctors funeral ,I really felt the kids voice here .

 

SO Leaf storm is the first book I’ve choosen by Marquez because in a way ,although not his first book it is the one that is readily available Marquez did write a book before this but it isn’t readily available .This book also saw the first appearance of the Village of Macondo which appeared in a lot of his later and more famous novels .This book also has a number of characters that Marquez uses in other books ,the first and main character in the book is an old man known in the village as Colonel ,the story centers around a promise he made to the village doctor many years before the book opens as this doctor ,who as an outsider was never really trusted within the village has died and over the years also fell out with other people .So it is left to the old Colonel to bury this man .Then there is the Colonel daughter Isabel ,who is obliged to help her father bury this man .Then there is the grandson of the Colonel he views this death with the mind of a young man ,with wide-eyed interest as he hasn’t seen death much before .So whilst honour his promise we see why the doctor end up the most hated man in the village .This leads to conflict as even thou the Colonel is a respect figure in the village ,no one wants to see the Doctor honoured with a decent funeral .

Even though he hoped it would be the opposite ,he was a strange person in town ,apathetic in spite of his obvious efforts to seem sociable and cordial .He lived among the people of Macondo ,but at a distance from them because of the memory of past against which any attempt at rectification seemed useless .

It was always hard for the doctor ,but aren’t villages always this way to incomers ?

Now this is a must for any one that has read his main novels as it is the first time we get to meet the village of Macondo .But it is also less steep in the magic realism of the later books this feels more like one of the original stories that Marquez heard of course Macondo is based on the Village his own grandmother  lived , we see the infant Marquez I feel in those first lines  and the settings is his own childhood  , the stories he heard from them as a child live on in this and his other books .The Colonel is a figure that crops up again and again in his novels the old man looking back at life and facing his own death in this case through the death of his old friend the doctor .Florentino as old man in love in the time of cholera or Jose in One hundred years of solitude .The narrative style is also clearly seen here ,I always think this is Marquez true gift ,we start the story as the doctor has died then through out the book see what happened and what happens as the two lines of the story twist and turn along we see how the past lead to the present and the tough words in the opening few pages become clear .

Have you read leaf storm ?

Outlaws by Javier Cercas

outlaws by Javier Cercas

Outlaws by Javier Cercas

Spanish fiction

Original title – Las leyes de la frontera

Translator – Anne McLean

Source – Library book

One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.

Lucius Annaeus Seneca source

Now I had thought of rereading Soldiers Salamis for this Spanish lit month then by chance I caught Javier Cercas interviewed on the radio four book show about Outlaws and before the interview had finished I had already clicked the order button on my library ordering system .I have featured Javier Cercas before his last book out in the UK was The anatomy of a moment a non fiction narrative about the attempted coup in the mid 1980’s in Spain .Javier Cercas is of course an award-winning spanish writer ,he and some fellow writers have spent years writing books focusing on the historical memory of Spain’s past between the civil war and Franco’s death .

“That was where I saw Zarco for the first time .The Vilaro arcade was on Bonastruc de porta street ,still in La Devesa neighbourhood ,across from the railway overpass .It was one of those amusement arcades for teenagers that proliferated in the seventies and eighties.

Ignacio first sees him at the arcade on the edge of their part of town .

Now this book is again about the time of Franco just after he has died the vacuum that Spain had  ,but for once he isn’t the important figure in the book, but  no this is a story of growing up  in the 1970’s in a large Spanish town  Gerona and a triangle of friends one Ignacio is from one side of town or as Cercas put it in the interview one side of the river he is a quiet timid one could say a perfect vision of a bookish boy .When one day he is playing pinball and his life is changed forever when two kids from the other side of town (the rough side ) ,start playing pinball with him these two Zanco and Tere ,take Ignacio into their circle and show him the other side of town for just one summer in 1978  .Now this is the first part of the tale the story is strong with what Cercas called his own childhood memories of where he grew up  ,although Ignacio isn’t autobiographical he said in part he was Ignacio  at that age .The second line of the story finds the three characters in the mid 90’s on different sides of the fence again Zarco has gone on to be a huge gangster who after Igancio went away has spent time in prison and has now via their other friend Tere reached out to their old friend to help Zarco who is now a folk-lore gangster .But in doing so each must reflect on their own past .Add to that Tere is a girl you can see what can happen .

“Then Tere got to the point .She told me they wanted me to defend Zarco at a trial to be held in Barcelona in a few months time ,a trail in which Zarco would be accused of assaulting two guards at Brains prison .Of course ,Tere took it for granted that I knew ,as everyone did ,who Zarco had turned into over the years

Tere find Ignacio to help their old friend

Now it’s fair to say I liked this book ,no in fact I loved this book and was so glad I caught the interview ,I know so people don’t like to know to much about a book before they read it but the interview with Cercas sold it more so to me I would have picked it up from the library at some point to read but the writer sold it to me .The book is one of those soaked in the writers own past ,but also a dreamed past of what would have happened if he had ventured more into his own childhood town dark side .But it is also a story of the bond of friendship those ties that bind and as in this case can cross class ,moral and personnel beliefs .Zarco is a character that many places have the heroic or infamous gangster a sort of superstar of the underworld . Ignacio is the boy done good and Tere is the sort of go between .In fact the spanish title laws of the border maybe tells you more about this book that is what it is a bout crossing borders in one’s life .

Have you read Cercas ?

Lizard tails by Juan Marsé

lizard tails

Lizards tail by Juan Marsé

Spanish Literature

Orginial title – Rabos de lagartija

Translator – Nick Caistor

Source – Personnel copy

 

We plan our lives according to a dream that came to us in our childhood, and we find that life alters our plans. And yet, at the end, from a rare height, we also see that our dream was our fate.

Ben Okri on childhood

Well when I brought the Jorge Volpi novel at Oxfam the other week ,this was the other book I found for Spanish lit month ,which was good fortune because Juan Marsé  has a new book the Caligraphy of dreams due out early next month from Maclehose press ,so I was able to read and put two books on the blog from one of the most well-known and successful Spanish writers ,Juan Marsé  start as a Jewellers apprentice .,but writing stories on the side in the late 1950’s his stories were being published and he decide to become a writer .Many of his books have been made unto films in Spain .He won the Cervantes prize in 2008 ( the Spanish Nobel prize )

“Come on kid , spit it out ”

My parents conceived me many years ago now ,but at that moment I can have been in existence for only three or four months .Everything that happened then takes place as if in a dream frozen in the placenta of memory , a time suspended when public masquerading and private misfortune were the order of the day ,a time of abuse and unhappiness ,of prison and chains

The opening lines of Lizard tails ,this just drew me in to him

SO Lizard tales is in the post world war two period of Spain’s history Franco is still in charge of Spain .We meet David a young boy in Barcelona ,he has his own problems a drunken father who for various reasons has had to disappear  and a mother that turns men’s heads .SO we enter this young man’s worlds of Lizard tails that him and his friends ,David also dreams of an RAF pilot whose picture David has on his wall  in his bedroom , so he dreams diving spitfires and makes  a war-torn city rebuilding its self  his personnel playground .then there is also  Absent father Victor ,whom like most boys whom fathers aren’t there becomes a mythical figure to  impressionable young boys David .

Squatting on his haunches , David lets the lizard escape .then picks up the severed tail oozing sticky liquid over the drowsy rocks .He presses the penknife on his knee to shut it ,opens his other hand and puts the new til in the palm next to another one still writhing there .

Collecting his tails the title of the book .

Now I like good child narrators and David is ,his story is an Everyman story  of post civil war Spain ,how many boys lost their father because of the war ,their opinions or they just had to go ,many so as we follow David with his friends ,discovering themselves ,but also their and their parents places within this changed world . I was reminded of a couple of recent Argentinian  novels with child narrators by Andres Neuman and a few years ago by Marcelo Figueras  ,I feel Marse must have in some way been an influence on these writers ,given his position within Spanish Literature ,he was the only writer with two books on a list of the best Spanish books by El Mundo, this book was one of the two books on that list .An interesting take on growing up by a master writer ,I don’t know how I not read Marse before but its like spinning plates being a world lit blogger you try to keep them European ,Latin american ,African ,Arabic and Asian fiction but ever so often its nice to find the writers from somewhere you have missed .

Have you read Marse ?

In search of Klingsor by Jorge Volpi

in search of Klingsor

In search of Klingsor by Jorge Volpi

Mexican Fiction

Original title –  ‘En busca de Klingsor’

Translator – Kristina Cordero

Source – Personnel copy

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

“Klingsor ”

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

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

 

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

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

The Ingenious Gentleman and Poet Federico Garcia Lorca ascends to hell by Carlos Rojas

Carlos Rojas the ingenious gentleman and poet Federico Garica Lorca ascends to hell

The Ingenious Gentleman and Poet Federico Garcia Lorca ascends to hell by Carlos Rojas

Spanish Fiction

Orginal title – El Ingenioso hidalgo y poeta Federico García Lorca asciende a los infiernos

Translator – Edith Grossman

Source – Personnel copy

As I have not worried to be born, I do not worry to die.
Federico Garcia Lorca source

Well when I went to London earlier this year I had in mind to buy a couple of books for Spanish lit month ,the first I brought was the Cela I review last week .I also had in mind another from the wonderful Margellos series from Yale knowing they had published a few translations from Spanish ,but when I saw this on their list and it was in stock at the LRB ,I couldn’t resist it the title alone is one that draws you in then add to the fact it is a Grossman translation you know you are on too a winner .SO Carlos Rojas is an older Spanish writer this book was first published in 1980 ,he has won the Nadal and Planteta prize in Spain  and his uncle was president of Columbia in the fifties .He has written over twenty works of fiction ,essays and Poetry .

The magic of free will in Hell incarnates those memories on stage .Still ,the flashes from the past are always painted , not live .If I  go up on the boards , so often much confused by their apparent veracity, they vanish immediately at my approach .

He can see and imagine his past but no more .

Now this book is rather like that advert on UK tv in the fact it is what it says in the Title and that is we follow the well-known Spanish Poet Lorca after he has died .As he descends through Hell ,his life is shown to him in a number of theatrical performances .The first is of his early life ,but as he grows accustom to Hell he starts to discover other people and shows ,thus expanding on his own life as he sees people like a man who arrested him  ,the judge that he once got involved with ,writers including Sadro Vasari ,whom is a made up writer that Rojas has used in two other books that follow this  ,artists of the time .The book is in four sections and you could say forms a bizarre journey through his own life , but also he sees the points at which he could have change the route of his life and at one such point he could have had two lives . Then the is the rise of Franco in the background ,which also saw the splitting of the generation of 1927 which ,Lorca was a main member off which split with the rise of Franco  , and of course Lorca was killed in 1936 by Franco’s forces .

“Did you also hold your head high when the governor asked you to arrest that man , Senor Ruiz Alonso ?”

“The acting governor ”

“Lieutenant Colonel Velasco .That was his name .I don’t know why I remember it now ”

“Did you hold your head high when Lieutenant  Colonel Velasco asked you to arrest the  Poet ?”

“Yes sir I did  because an inevitable justice ,divine justice seemed to settle our debts !

Lorca sees the men that arrested him .

Now this is one of those books that is hard to pin down in a review after a single reading ,I will go back another time and read it again .The book I imagine was one of the first post Franco novels coming five years after his death .You can see Lorca as maybe an example of all that was wrong with Franco .Lorca’s life is interesting as he crossed the paths with most of the major figures of Spanish culture pre civil war ,I was left with a deep feeling of want to learn more about the people mention in this book and Lorca himself  Rojas love of this poet is evident in the book .As for the trip to Hell well Thomas Aquinas talk of four parts of hell ,whether we can transpose the four parts of this book to his vision of the four parts is hard to say , in ways it does in others in doesn’t  maybe its best to say it covers a perceived view of a journey through hell .The Spanish wiki compares the book a Sonata ,I can see the comparison to music as each part of the book has a different feel  like a piece of music or Opera the first is how he got there the Spiral ,then his arrest is the second part ,then we see his destiny in the third part and finally a trial .Well unusual ,different ,stunning writing and translating .Yale have done it again another thought provoking read in the Margellos series .

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