The neighborhood by Mario Vargas Llosa

 

The neighborhood by Mario Vargas Llosa

Peruvian Fiction

Original title – Cinco esquinas

Translator – Edith Grossman

Source – Library book

I returrn to anpther writer that has featured on the blog a few times. Mario Vargas Llosa has won just about every award out there including the Nobel. He has written about twenty novels with all being translated into English. He has written in a varitey of styles over his years writing. This is his latest book and is an interesting view of how writers write in their later life. He has in his life tried to be president of his homeland when in the early 1990’s he ran for president only to get defeated by Alberto Fujimori. This book is set in the years after that election.

She didn’t say anything, but closing her eyes, she leaned to one side and found her mouth that had started to kiss and  gently nibble her neck, ears, and her hair. She raised her hands, held the braidm and ran her fingers through her friend’s hair, whispering “WIll you let ,me undo you braid? I want to see you with your hair undone and to kiss it, darling” Arms entwined, serios now, they left the terrace and , crossing the living room, dining room, and a hallway, came to Chabela’s bedroom

The Miami weekend and this is just not very convincing to me is it just me ?

The book follows a scandal but not the one you at first thing the books open when two female friends awaken after a party in the same bed and discover a sudden attreaction to one another Mariesa and Chabela become attract this culminates in a weekend away in Miami. Now the book then diverts to the offices and the editor of the scandal paper Exposed a man called Rolando Garro. Now this man is maybe worst than all we have seen in the UK muckrakers no this is a paper that just sets out to cause trouble. So when he comes to Enrique the husband of one of the two woman a welalthy industralist. This is the point you think it maybe be the girls no it is pictures of the man himself at an Orgy that Garro has shown him. So when Garro turns up dead havuing been beaten to death suspicion falls on Enrique as it does all the people featured in the rag over the last while. He is arrested now the other husband the rwo are best friends come to help his friend and avoid him falling into the hands of “the doctor” a character based on one of Fujimori’s henchman of the time that ran the intellegance service now these two men dislike him for the way he looks more than the fact he is a violent tortuture. Will the girls secret be found out , will the husband get free will the mruderer be found ?

When Enrique saw Rolando Garro walk into his office, he felt the same distance as the first time. Garro was dressed in the same clothing he has worn two weeks earlier, and he walked swinging his arms and coming down hard on his heels of his high platform shoes, as if wanting to come up in the world. he reached his desk – Enrique hadn’t stood to receive him – and extended the flaccid wet hand that Enriqye remembered with revulsion. It was ten in the morning: He was right on time for their appointment.

Garro a slimy man with no redeeming features like the worst of Fleet street rolled into one .

This isn’t his best book it hasn’ t the feel of earlier books like Aunt Julia which I read years ago. Or even somethung like Bad girl which he wrote ten years before this.. No this is partly a look back at those years when he could have been president. Would he have allowed eposed to carry on ? The doctor a henchman for his opponent and winner of the election is the bad next to Garro a man with no redemming features.. These character all work for me the Lesbian relationship just seemed a bit well like a man writing about what he may have loike to have seen two women he may have known at the time do. The blonde and the woman in Biegee is the way they are described. I have always put Llosa in the Pamuk and Saramago group of winners those that constantly write good but not great books each may have one or even two great books. This isn’t one of thos thou it is a late book of a great writer and in that it is a writer looking back at the time he could have made a difference in his country. In those parts it works and as ever Grossman makes the book flow. In others it is a bit weaker than his earlier books.

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Map drawn by a spy by Guillermo Cabrera Infante

Map drawn by a spy by Guillermo Cabrera Infante

Cuban memoir

Original title – Mapa dibujado por un espía

Translator – Mark Fried

Source – Personal copy

I have long been a fan of Infante’s work it started when I read three trapped tigers fairly early on in the blog.I also review a view of dawn in the tropics both of these books showed different sides to the man as a writer and this shows another side. This follows a time after Infante had spent time in Brussels as a cultural attache  for three years from 1962 as he had fallen out of favor in the year before his posting with the Castro Regime, a piece about Cuban nightlife his brother had written (Three trapped tigers strikes me as a lament to the scene that died in the early Castro years). This starts when he returns to Havana for his mothers funeral.

He climbed the stairs and in the vestibule a sign suprised him:

Chapel C

Zoila Infante

Seeing her name in black and white, the reality of this mothers death hit home. Another flight of steps took him to chapel C and soon he was in the anteroom, which was filled with friends and acquaintances. He saw his father, smaller, shrunken astonshingly aged, emerging from the sweltering chapel and walking toward him.

“Come, so you can see her , the poor woman.”

“No, no.”

“come on you must. She’s laid out in there”

“No, no. I don’t want to, I don’t wamt to see her”

He returns and I think of the description of his father and the changes over three years is also for the country he has returned too.

‘The book follows the time he returns for his mothers funeral he intends to stay a week. He should known it might have been trouble when he had booked his flight there and back via Prague.  But then is told he can’t board his return flight and has to spend time in a Cuba that has much change in the three years he has been gone. His going was brought on by the early indications of what he found on his return and that is the cutting down of voices that only in little bits query the Castro regime. This is shown when he finds some of his editor friends have lost jobs and the way people are following new rules. As he sees the changes in the world around him as he meets a lot of his old friends this is the style of the book meeting events everyday life but this is what he sees changing the way his friends that remained or there almost Kafka worries of the world around them and what the regime is doing. This is a glimpse of Cuba in those early post-Castro years.

Titon spoke in a low voice, but freely nd frankly, without apparent concern for the waiters coming and goings. He described the situation the perscution of Homosexuals, the cultural coulcil’s imposed orthodxy, problems at the university. About the university he went on atsome length and recounted his personal experience : he  and two others from the film isitute attended one of the trials the student federation was holding of supposed counterrevolutionaries on campus. At the “trial” there were two accused, a boy and a girl. The jury was the audience.

This remind me of Kafka the way the world of his friends had changed in the three years he had been gone.

This is a flipside for me to three trapped tigers the atmosphere of three trapped tigers I said when I read it had a feel of jazz and the night. This has a different feel there is real tension in the world he sees his friends are changed it is as though he as returned and they have all been replaced with Kafka characters. The world he sees is one of rules and freedoms being cut and the uncertainty that brings to everyday life especially in his creative circle where simple things can be taken the wrong way. What was a brief week for his mother funeral turns into a Kafkaesque nightmare as he has to spend four months more in the New Cuba? I have two more books by Infante on my shelves and can’t wait to add them to the blog.

They won’t take me alive by Claribel Alegria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They won’t take me alive by Claribel Alegria

El Salvadorean biography

Original title – No Me Agarran Viva

Translator – Amanda Hopkinson

Source – personal copy

I move from Brazil and into Spanish lit from Central America. Claribel was born in Nicaragua but considered herself Salvadorean and was a driving force in central America woman’s literature she wrote ion many styles Poetry and Novels. She also wrote non-fiction and this book follows one of the female rebel leaders of the Guerilla war in El Salvador. Claribel also translated a lot of Poetry into Spanish particularly Rupert Graves. She also compiled one of the earliest collection of Latin American boom works  “New Voices of Hispanic America”.She also won the Neustadt prize.

It was 4 january. Only thirteen days ago. she had barely three and a half years to spend with Javier. They conversed intently while Ana Patrica played with her rag doll.

They had reviewed their seven years together, four of them spent in hiding. They remembered the threantened miscarriage and congratulated themsleves on the happy outcome, there in person and tugging at Eugenia’s hand that she come and take a look at a caged bird. Was it going to be the last goodbye?

From the opening chapter one fo the last meeting of husband and wife the caged bird mademe think of Maya Angelo poem.

I was pleased to have found this old woman’s press copy of this book. The book follows the life of a Female Guerilla leader one Commander Eugenia a female leader that inspired her fellow female freedom fighters. Claribel follows her life from her early years her father died when she was and looking after her sister as the eldest of the three. One of her sisters recalls her taking her to see the slums. Her parents were Christians and had fled from Nicaragua when Ana (Eugenia real name). We see her being drawn to the parties that oppose the government and then into the guerilla movement. She meets her partner Javier. They also had children we see as she crosses the countryside in just her sandals. Even working whilst she was pregnant. We follow her life on the run through her comrade’s eyes and reportage of what she did. A story of a woman who fought for her cause and gave her life for it.

My mother has a very strong character, and Eugenia inherited this from her. My mother never became overwhelmed in the face of difficulties.There is a inherent contradiction in this. People would say to us :”Your mother is a widow and you have to help her out”, but the the truth of the matter is that she would never be helped. She ran the buisness all on her own. Previousluy, during the daytime, Eugenia used help her, and at nught she completed the shores and studied. Later ion she abandoned the income producing work and carried on with the housework and attending University.

I spent several months with my mum but from then on we were committed to the revolutionary struggle. Ondina was still at school. I left home, I really wasn’t capable of maintaining the buisness, and we had skills more relevant to the people.

Marthe Eugenia sister saying her mother had the same grit as her sister did that drove them all forward.

I am a pack rat when it comes to books. I am a devil for second-hand bookshops as I am always wanting to find books like this lost gems. The conflict in El Salvador is a conflict I remember from my youth. I find it strange how much our news coverage has shrunk over the last few decades we used her a lot more about conflicts like this one. This is a well-drawn account of one woman but in her account is a reflection of a hundred or thousand other women that took arms in the Guerilla wars that swept across Central America through the later part of the 20th century. It shows the journey of many people from events in the childhood that made her poltical. The cause that drew her further in the man she met that shared her cause. I was touched by her story.

Sergeant Getulio by Joao Ubaldo Ribeiro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sergeant Getulio by Joao Ubaldo Ribeiro

Brazilian fiction

Original title – Sargento Getulio

Translator – Curt Meyer-Clason

Source – personal copy

I again am in Brazil and another tale involving Police this time it is a tale of a military policeman. The writer like Rubem Fonseca is one of the best known Brazilian writers. Joao Ubaldo Ribeiro was first a journalist whilst he studied law. But in the mid-sixties had to leave Brazil for a year Then on his return to Brazil he at first lectured in Political science. Then he chooses to become a writer. This book was his second book and he went on to write many more before his death in 2014 at which time he was considered one of the greatest Brazilian writers. This book was made into a film.

Even now that I’ve lost some authority I still have my influence. I habe good backing back in the capital city of Aracaju and my name isn’t Getulio if I’m to give it up all of a sudden. Espeacially after delivering you. There is some good feeling for you in Aravaju, people in you favour. One of tjose things. I don’t liike this assignment, I don’t like to escot prisoners. It puts you out of face. After I take tyou there I’ll set up my quarters somewhere and give up this footloose life.

He hartews this last job and it shows how fragile his postion is as the man has friends in the City as well.

The book takes the form of a monologue. The main monologue is that of Sergeant Getulio as he heads to the backwaters of Brazil for what is his last job and that is to fetch a prisoner a local political leader a conservative politician that has been ordered to be brought to the city of Aracaju. The man is accused of a bombing. What we see over the course of the book is the volatile politics of the time as the man situations changes halfway through the journey when the government is overthrown. But the Sergeant decides to carry on regardless and ignore those order that tells him to release the prisoner. Getulio is a man of his word and will take the prisoner he is also a violent man that has killed and has committed much violence in his career as we see in flashbacks over his life in the stream of consciousness. He also dreams of his children and what they will do a world full of people with a similar resolve to him.

I never thought I was going to behead the Lieutenant, at least I never thought about it clearly , I mean , I never said “Getulio, lets cut off this nuisance of a lieutnants head.” I hadn’t even noticed he was a lieutenant until he came near, but I also saw that he was more of a bastard than anything else.

A short thought about when he killed the lieutenant I loved the line of him being a bastard and him not seeing the rank at first.

Another violent book the man character of this at one point cuts a superior officers head off for trying to stop him doing his job. That is the sort of man he is below the violent he is one that when given his order must do it. In a way, I was reminded of an interview with a German army officer in world war two that tried to take Berlin when ordered to do so the same blind action is here but unlike that soldier, this one won’t finish his job so he delivers the prisoner to the city he has been ordered too. There is a strange feeling as at times in the narrative as thou they are stuck in their own world away from the outer world. It seems like these two men locked in the journey to nowhere really. It is a view of the everchanging world that was Brazilain politics at the time which lead to Ribeiro himself spend time outside Brazil. The book shows how one man can be both violent and honorable to his own beliefs at the same time. Getulio is a man struggling to be a hero. this is a wonderful Modernist novel from Brazil from a writer considered one of the best writers of his time.

 

The taker by Rubem Fonseca

 

The Taker and Other Stories

The Taker by Rubem Fonseca

Brazilian short stories

Translator – Clifford E Landers

Source – personal copy

Well, I’m suffering from the weather as it has sapped my mind and made me not read a lot in the last week.I am trying to read early in morning and late at night. Anyway I now stop at Brazil this Spanish and Portuguese lit month and one of the best known Brazilian writers. Rubem fonseca studied Law then became a policeman in Rio many of the police characters in his books are drawn from his time in the Police. He then spent time US being sent to study US police techniques. He then decided to become a writer full time.He is best known for his shprt stories and a collection of books about a lawyer. Mandrake one of his main characters ab amoral Lawyer that has been made into a tv series by HBO.  He has won many prizes the Biggest the Premio Camoes is considered like a Portuguese Nobel prize. Fonseca himself became friends with Thomas Pynchon and like Pynchon has rarely been interviewed and has maintained his privacy.

Betsy waited for the man to return to die.

Before the trip he had noticed that Betsy was unusally hungry. Then other symptons emerged: excessive drinking of water, urinary Incontinence. Betsy’s only problem till then was the cataract in one of her eyes. She didn’t like to go out , but before the trip she had unexpectedly come into the elevator with him and the two of them had strolled along the sidewalk by the beach something they had never done.

Betsy waiting fot the man to return the opening lines .

The taker has 13 stories. I will mention a few  of the stories that I really liked. As for the whole the collection it  shows the brutal nature of Rio.  Where every day can be a struggle for some people living on the edge. We also see how violent the city can be. The first story I will mention is Betsy as for me it was a little different to the other stories as it remind me of the way Roal Dahl would leave a twist to the ery end of the tale here we see what we at first see as a woman dying waiting for an unnamed man to come home and then her last evening. Only in the last few words of the story you get a real twist that makes think. Then in the opening story we see a buisnessman arrive home his wife wants things his kids want things next thing is he is out in his car and heading striaght at someone. Then later we have a police like account of what happened when a cow is hit on a bridge and we see the local poor people running to cut up the dying cow. elsewhere we have serial killers a man trying to find his past that others would rather he had forgotten.

Early on the morning on May 3 a brown cow was crossing the brigdge over the Coroado river, at marker %£, in the direction of Rio deJanerio.

A passenger bus of the Unica auto Onibus firm, license plates RF-80-07-83 and JR-81-12-27, was crossing the Coroado bridge in the direction of Sao Paulo

When he saw the cow, the driver, Plinio Sergio, tried to avoid hitting it . He collided with the cow and then the bus hit the side of the bridge and plunged into the river .

On the bridge the cow was dead.

The report of an incident this could almost have been a police report theat Fonseca maybe wrote himself at some point.

Now I knew this would be a great collection as how often do you get a Pynchon quote on the cover of a book he says “Each of Fonseca’s books is not only a worthwile journey: it is also, in some ways, a necessary one. There is a sense of the policeman sat times in tthe clipped nature of Fonsecas prose that police report style that over time sees them cutting to the bone of the matter. The stories show the acts also he does have a clever way of twisting a tale like Betsy where it isn’t to the last few words the story is turned on its head.  This is a man rasing the torch tothe city he had spent most of his life in Rio this isn’t the glamor of copacabana this is the side streets the  poorer areas of town. He has a way of opening the door on the darker side of life from a man randomlly running some one over to the man that just takes what he wants. The taker is one of those collections that isn’t for every one but if you want see the real side of Rio in its fully brital nature this will appeal to you.

Op Oloop by Juan Filloy

 

Op Oloop by Juan Filloy

Argentinean fiction

Original title – Op Oloop

Translator – Lisa Dillman

Source personnel copy

I was first attracted to the title when it came out a number of years ago so when I saw they had a reduced the price of it a few weeks ago I felt I had to get a copy. The first thing that grabbed me about the writer was his Bio. Juan Filloy was a Hellenist, swimmer boxing referee, and talented Caricaturist. He spoke seven languages. He was a lawyer and Judge in the small town of Rio Cuarto. He made over 8000 palindromes in his life and only used seven letters in his book titles. He died in 200 just before his 106 birthday. There is part of me feels he maybe is a non de plume for a more modern writer this book came out in 1934. He was to inspire both Borges and Cortazar. If he was real he led a life worthy of an epic biography.

The statistician hadn’t noticed. Everything, in fact, was slipping by him unnoticed. He couldn’t focus. His eyes had tuned into the droning, thereby affecting his ability o hear – which ability hoovered awkwardly in the midst of all the urban traffic noise around him. Neuropathy jad attacched the characteristics of various other senses to Op Oloop’s sight. He sat, preplexed the sensorial wires leading to his brain having been switched around, as though he could listen with his sight or touch with his smell

His brain has been wired by his habits in a way.

The book follows a day in the life of Mr. Optimus Oloop. The Op Ollop of the title. This man is a Finnish statistician living in Buenos Aires. We join him on what turns out to be the day of his engagement party. We see how this guy is timed to times his life is ruled by a rigid set of rules and schedule. We first see this when he is writing letters, in fact, is in the middle of a  letter when the clock strikes ten and he must finish where he is with the invitations he has been writing out. Then he has his regular appointment at the Turkish bath.  That he has at the same time each day. Then a taxi ride that needs to reach an exact price that means for a later event in the day he will have the right money. This shows the running of this man’s mind the day is leading to his Engagement party where we meet his group of unusual friends a German submarine captain, a pimp, a white slave trader the had of sanitation and the head of air traffic control. Also at the party is the Finnish Ambassador that gives Oloop a head injury. The other activity that Mr. Oloop loves is visiting the many and varied prostitutes he has met since arriving in the Americas. So yes even thou he is due to get engaged to Fransiska. He is also due to sleep and writes down about the 1000 prostitute he will never forget this day. As the later events in the book are marred by the fact he is running late an event that makes Mr. Op Oloop act differently from he usually would.

I’d be delighted. The first entry coincides with my arrival in America : August 7, 1924. I won’t bother reading the columm headings

BIRDIE, 17 years old. Blonde, cheveux de lin. Chorus girl from Ziegfeld. Unbelievable  tit! my hands still cupped

SOLANGE, 38. Brunette. French Thin forur sisters, all prostitutes, Chiqueteuse. Fifteen dollars!

MERKEL, 26 , Lituanian. Almost Albino. Scar deoma caesarian pudgy , foul smell presliration. repulsive

DELORES , 15 Andalusian. Olive-skinned. The beauty of a murillo, with a dark background …worty of Valdes Leal

His entires on the prostitutes he has slept with the 1000th is the same noght as his engagement part

 

This book is what we have publishers like Dalkey Archive for those odd strange books that need be in English. This book has a bit of Ulysses and Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway as it follows the event of one person over the course of time. It also shows what happens when events take an unexpected turn. I see comparisons with Bloom arguing with the Loyalist in the pub and leaving the pub early leads to events later is similar to the events around Mr. Oloop. For me, the one comparison I would make is to the film Clockwise with John Cleese that showed what happens when Time runs against you and events run out of Control. Like the events that lead Oloop to act out of sorts. It’s strange that he was mention as an influence to Cortazar as this has a feeling of a book that the Oulipo group would write using Oloop Time and other ticks to control the narrative this is a precursor to that movement. A challenging book about one mans obsessive life from his time keeping to his sexual desires and writing down every woman he has slept with.

Have you read Filloy ? is he real?

The Tunnel by Ernesto Sabato

The Tunnel by Ernesto Sabato

Argentian fiction

Original title –El túnel

Translator – Margaret Sayers Peden

Source – personal copy

I was kindly sent this a few years ago by Annabelle of the blog Annabookbel here review is here . I had left this on my shelves to long Sabato is a writer I had wanted to try for a while, I ‘m always wanting to find older writers from the countries I have a lot of reviews for to add depth to the reviews so everything isn’t shiny and new and I could add depth. Sabato is a little like the well known English novelist as he was both a scientist and a writer the two cultures as Snow called them. He had a PHd in physics but at the same time he was talking in the evening to Surrealist writers and starting his own writing life. This was his debut novel and was considered a fine example of Existentialism at the time it was written has got good reviews from Camus.

In the annual spring art show I had exhibited a painting entitled Motherhood. It was painted in the style typical of many of my earlier works: as the critics say in their unbearable jargon, it was solid, soundly architectural. In short, it has all the qualties those charlatans always saw in my canvases, including a “profoundly cerbal je ne sais quoi.” In the upper left-hand corner of the canvas  was a remote cene framed in a tiny window : an empty beach and a solitary woman staring at the sea. She was starring into the distance as if expecting something, perhaps some faintand faraway summons. In my mind that scene suggested the most wistful and absolute loneliness.

The detail Maria saw in his painting Motherhood that lead him to follow her.

 

The book is the story of a Painter Juan Pablo Castel he is now writing his account of what lead him to Murder. The woman he killed Maria Irbane he became obsessed with. The story starts when he has an Exhibition and finds a woman looking closely at what is one of his favorite paintings “Motherhood” it’s not the fact she is looking at the picture but at one detail he put in the painting that he felt no one would notice but she had. So when she leaves the exhibition he decides on impulse to follow her. This leads him to meet her as he finds where she works and then engineers a meeting. But there is more to Maria than first meets his eye, he figured here for a single woman, in fact, he discovers her husband but also the fact she has kept her own surname and this sends Juan in a paranoid downward cycle. As the ideal image he had of this woman and the real person fall further apart he gets stuck in a tunnel that leads to the events that meant he had to kill her.

Again she stared at me as if studying me, but said nothing.She fixed her eyes on a distant tree

In Profile, she did not remind me of anything. Her face was beautiful, but there was something hard in her expression,Her hair was long and chestnut coloured. Physically, she seemed not much more than twenty-six, but there was something about her that suggest age, something reminicant of a person who had lived a long tim. Not a gray heir or any physical indication but something underfined, surely spiritual.It may have been her expression, but how physical can an expression be ?

Early on in the relationship he spots something not sure what but something in Maria.

This is a classic story of obsession one mans dream view of a woman is shattered. Juan Pablo Castel reminded me of a lot of character I have read in other books that seem stuck on a slippery slope. Blaugast the character fro the Leppin Novel that falls into a world of sex and depravity like Castel is on the path to disaster. Both the main characters in this book are people you wouldn’t like in real life Maria is never fully honest with Juan and is maybe in a perverse marriage. I also wonder if there is more to Catel story we may have clues like the detail in the picture of Motherhood. Had he mother issues and the detail was there to find someone like his mother as they would only notice that detail? There is a real sense of the clinical world Sabato was used to there is a clipped nature to the prose an observant feel to the prose more non-fiction at times than fiction.

The shape of the ruins by Juan Gabriel Vásquez

 

The shape of the ruins by Juan Gabriel Vásquez

Columbian fiction

Original title – La forma de las ruinas

Translator – Anne McLean

Source – review copy

I read this a while ago but as the world cup unfold in the last week and it being Spanish Portuguese lit month I waited to review it. I have long been a fan of Vasquez books having reviewed three of his books. He uses the history of his country and has said he tries to avoid the Rhetoric of the Magic and marvelous Latin America. He has been on the IFFP shortlist in the past and his last novel in English the sound of things falling won the Impac award.

April 9 is a void in Colombian history, yes, but it is other things beside; a solitary act that sent a whole nation into a bloody war; a collectibe neurosis that has taught us to distrust each other for more than half a century. In the time that has passed since the crime we colombians have tried, without sucess, to comprehend what happened that friday in 1948, and many have turned it into a more or less serious entertainment and their time and energy have been consumedby it.There are also Americans – I know several – who spend their whole lives talking about the Kennedy asassination, its details and most recondite particulars

The parallels explained at the dr party early on in the book.

This book is in many ways the most personal book from Vásquez as the writer himself is at the center of the book. He is at a party held by Dr. Benavides a family friend when he meets another man Carlos Carballo over this evening they discuss a couple of events in the past of Columbian history an event the Carballo compares with the Kennedy assassinations of JFK and Robert. The first killing is that in 1948 of Jorge Gaitan a progressive liberal politician that was shot to death by Juan Sierra. This man was later killed by a mob. This assassination does echo the JFK and the killing of  Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby. Then an earlier killing of another liberal Leader and Senator who was hacked to death by two men in Bogota. We see Vasquez and the two other men look into their countries past. Carlos is a man that sees conspiracies and a long dark arm going through Columbia history. There are pieces of each story they discover have gone missing over the coming years. But we do see the spine of Gaitian in a Jar an eerie look at the death like those relics of the JFK Killing that leads those like Carballo to those wild theories of what happened. Along side this we see the everyday life of Vasquez the writer, his marriage, his wife giving birth. A man looking at his own countries dark past.

“My Father believed there’d been a second shooter” said Benavides,” At least for a time”

He was referring to one of the many conspiracy theories surrounding Gaitián’s assassinatin. According to this one, Juan Roa Sierra did not act alone on April 9: He was accompanied by another man, responsible for the other shots and one of the lethal bullets. During the 1950’s , the theroy of the second shooter was gaining groundm in large oart due to an uncntrovertible fact: one of the bullets that killed Gaitian had not appeared in the course of the autopsy”And of course, peoples imaginations does what it does said Benavides

Missing Bullets and other missing parts to the case lead to questions of what really happened.

I loved finding out about these two deaths this is what Vásquez does well as a writer and that draws you as a reader into his homeland’s history. This shows that everywhere has it conspiracies There is many Carlos and also many people like the Dr and Juan that are drawn into uncovering these stories of their own countries dark past. The feeling of him diving down the rabbit-hole of these deaths does remind me of the interviews and claims Oliver Stone made around the time he made JFK the parallels of these stories with the US killing is easy to see there are gaps in each story that can draw people into making their own stories of what happened. The character of Uribe in a twist back to Marquez was the person he based Aurelio Buenida in 100 years of solitude. So as England face Columbia tonight maybe you could try a great novel from there.

Skylight by José Saramago

 

Skylight by José Saramago

Portuguese fiction

Original title – Claraboia

Translator – Margaret Jull Costa

Source – Personnel copy

I start this Spanish and Portuguese lit months with a Nobel winner. But this is one of those books that we wonder should have n=been published. Lost for years this was found at the publishers and dated from the early fifties thought Lost Saramago hadn’ t want it published in his lifetime. The publisher had wanted to release it in the 80s but Saramago said no and left it to his family to decide which they did. I am never sure about this type of work, I reviewed the lost debut novel of Georges Perec a few years ago that unlike this was different to the other Perec books I have read in this book there is a connection with the male characters to the other Saramago books I read years ago. I was surprised that I hadn’t review Saramago over the time of the blog anyway maybe this is a good intro to him on the blog the first work. I have a few others on my tbr pile to read.

Silvestre returned to his place at the window, wondering hiw the mistake could possibly have arisen. He knew full well that his handwriting was not of the finest, but it was, he thought pretty good for a cobbler, especially when compared with that of certian doctors. The only explanation seemed to be that hte newspaper had got it wrong. he sure it hadn’t been his mistake; he could see in his minds eye the form he had filled in and he had definetly put the ground floor, right. While engaged in theese thoughts, he remained focused on his work glancing out at the stree now and then, with the aim of spotting amoung the few passer bys anyone who migt be coming to see the room.

Silvestre misplaced the ad for the room but is at the window silent again .

Skylight is the tale of an Apartment building in Lisbon just after the end of world war two in 1952. Six flats mostly females that live in the flats. An elderly Cobbler Silvestre who we learned served in world war one and his rotund wife. They have been forced to take in a lodger a young man Abel a man who is about the age Saramago was when he wrote this book. I said this was the place to start with Saramago Silvestre is the typical male figure in a number of the other books I have read other the years by Saramago the working man getting on silently with life is a classic Saramago character. Then we have a pair of sisters spinsters as they would have been called then Adriana and Isaura listen to Beethoven turned up loud almost as they use their love of music as a substitute for Sex. Then a salesman Emilio and his Spanish with who have a very rocky marriage and use their young son as a weapon to try and can the upper hand in their marriage. A beautiful young typist who has a leary boss again sexual tensions.Elsewhere some one is selling their body for money.aetano and his wife coping with the loss of a child and in a brutal way at times.  A huddle of working class people some going up some of the level and other facing the void all living close to each other so much so that each of their lives is partly known to the others so.

Caetano was not looking at the photo, therefore his smile had nothing to do with his daughter’s. The smile in the photo bore no resemblance to his. The one in the photo was open and happy, and it was inly its fixed quality that made one uneasy. Caetano’s smile was lubricious, almost repellant, When grown up smile like that, they should not be in the prescence of childrens smiles, even smiles in photographs.

After leavinfg work, caetano had a little “adventure”, a sordid adventure – the kind he liked best. That’s why he was smiling. He enjoyed them twice over, once when he was experiencing them and again in retrospective.

Caetano a trubled character as shown above in this passage about a photo and a smile.

I have always been a fan of books set in buildings I mentioned Perec early on as this reminds me of his Life a user manual in a way as it shows the inner workings of this building. Another book I was reminded of was the yacobian building  by Alaa Al Aswanyt   the egypitian novel about another building like the Building in the Skylight a working class world a similar feel of fading world is in both worlds.  Another book was Taxi another egyptian novel with short glimpse and pictures of world as people catch a taxi. This is a discetion of the world Saramago saw at the time. The book has a strong undercurrent of sexual repression and desires were maybe to much for the Portugal of the time when he first wrote the book in the middle of the Salazar regime although this isn’t really about that more about being working class in the Lisbon of the time. and a great place to start with Saramago on the blog and his silent men.

Have you a favourite Saramago book?

What do you think about books that weren’t published in the writers life coming out ?

November 2018
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