Trout , belly up by Rodrigo Fuentes

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Trout, belly up by Rodrigo Fuentes

Guatemalan fiction

Original title -Trucha Panza Arriba

Translator  Ellen Jones

Source – Personal copy

One of the recent new press that has been bringing out books that I have loved is the Scottish based Charco books this is the fourth book by them I have reviewed in the last year and this also is a gem of a short story collection. They have been releasing the leading new voices in Latin American fiction. Rodrigo Fuentes has won a number of prizes for short stories including the Marquez prize the most prestigious for short stories in Latin America. He spends his time between his Homeland and the US where he teaches this is his first collection to appear in English.

Don Henrik had travelled all over the world, and in Norway he told us that afternoon, he’d learned all there was to know about breeding trout, gesturing towards the top of the mountain and his plot of land, he described where the first cement tanks would go – three meters in  diameter, eight hundred tout in each one – detailed how he’d filter the water and connect pipes up to the spring, feed and fillet the fish.

The hint of a european past and the reason for opening a trout tfarm in the mountains of Guatamala.

This is a different collection of stories as it moves us to the Guatemalan countryside and the efforts of those people that have to end up in this part of the world to get by. Henrik is the main character in the book he keeps cropping up in books he has inherited a farm and has taken the bold step of setting up a trout farm. This explains the strange title to the collection which is something that happens to the fish when the tanks they are kept in aren’t properly controlled and the oxygen is a problem this is a theme that happens in another story as Henrik and a friend go diving and run into problems. The collection has seven stories all set in the countryside. A motherless cow caught in the crossfire of striking farms and a hired gun remind us of the violent city life of Guatemala that is always lurking in the shadows of these stories. Recovering from splits drinking every week elsewhere subtle lives sad lives as the harsh reality of being a farm and trying to get by in the modern world.

In order to level the ground for the trout farm, Don Henrik had to use a machine brought in from San Agustin. All this weas virgin forest, and the machine ploughed night and day through the undergrowth shifting big rocks half-buried in the ground,He onlyt cut down one caoba, because the trees here are huge and, rightly or wrongly, Don Henrik respects age. That clearing now contains two tanks, my hut, Juancho’s little shack, and the wooden terrace Don Henrick asked us to build, all surrounded by thick forest. You still have to cut it back everyday, because every day the ferns, vines and climbers thry to gain back the territory from us. But I like using the machette to protect the clearing of ours

A violent last line here shows the battle of man and nature like In Fitzcarraldo the jungle is alway there

Harold Bloom talks about in his book how to read and why about there being two modern lines of short story writing these are of the Chekhovian-Hemingwayesque or of the Kafka-Borgesian. Now, this is firmly in the first Chekov Hemminway style of short stories sad characters living life and death. Henrik, the main character has a nod to being European as there are hints of Scandinavian past whether he lived or was from there isn’t sure in the brief glimpses here. He could easily have been a Chekov character as he tries to show the honest realities of the world his characters are in. His building of the trout farm in the corner of the mountain was like the efforts of in a small scale of Fitzcarraldo to build his opera house in the jungle putting something out of place with the world around it.  This is the tough countryside and souls battling to stay there and trying to escape the violent world of the cites they have known.

Have you read many other books from Guatemala?

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Resistance by Julián Fuks

 

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Resistance by Julián Fuks

Brazilian fiction

Original title – A RESISTENCIA

Translator – Daniel Hahn

Source – personnel copy

I now move to Brazil and a Brazilian writer that was born to Argentina parents like the character in his novel Julian Fuks was on the list of Granta best Brazilian novelist in 2012. He has worked as a reporter for Folha de S. Paulo and a reviewer for the magazine cult. He has published three other books before this one, this was his fourth book and won a number of book prizes Oceanos prize for literature in Portuguese, Jose Saramago literary prize and the Anna Seghers prize. This follows a different path to some of the other books I have read set around the 1970s and Argentina with child Narrators. Kamchatka and talking to ourselves both set at the same time feature the family on the run this book is set slightly later as the family has now settled in Brazil.

My brother is adopted, but I can’t say and don’t want to say that my brother is adopted. If I say this if I speak these words that I have long taken care to silence, I reduce my brother to a single categorical condition, a single essential attribute: my brother is something, and this something is what so many people try to see in him, thios something is set of marks we insist on looking for, despite ourselves, in his features,i in his gestures, in his acts.My brother is adopted, but I don;t want to reinforce the stigma that word evokes, the stigma that is the word itself made character.

The opening lines of the book see the main narrator talk about his older brother and his adoption.

As I said this book has a child narrator it is Sebastian the youngest child in this family his parents had to leave Argentina as they saw their friends that we also in opposition to the regime at the time disappearing here and there so they decide to run with the oldest child in the family Sebastian older brother they had Sebastian and his Older sister when they settled in Brazil . There were also children have disappeared that is what might have been Sebastian’s brother his mother may have given him away. This we discover as the book unfolds. What he thinks is his family isn’t at times as pictures of the time and what he is told by his parents don’t ever quite match up they never seem to fully settle in there home and his older brother is a troubled soul they talk about Winnicott his theories around adopted children. His parents are both psychoanalysts  There is a strong undercurrent of sadness in this book the feeling of what it is to be born into an exile family never home at home and never able to get home.

The photo doesn’t say what I want it to say, the photo doesn’t say anything. The photo is merely his soft face in the middle of a shady veranda, his eyes looking at me through the potographer’s lens, those eyes that are so light, that hair smottjerthan I could have imagined- his childish beauty that perhaps I envied. Hi headis tilted to one side as though he were asking something. but I knowit’s not for me to make up what it is .

The picture he discovers tell different tales of his parents past than he had been told by them.

I enjoyed this book it is a highly personal book one senses that Fuks himself must feel some of what Sebastian tells us of his world. Like the two books, it has a strong childlike nature to his view of the world as he ponders over the old photos he finds questioning what he is seeing in the way we do when we are children. Fuks has said in interviews he is a writer that doesn’t know how to make things up. It is only recently that there have been a number of books about this dark time in Argentina and the effect on those like Fuks that are the children of those who managed to escape. But then there is also Sebastian’s brother adopted and his mother that died and never really knew him but he managed to escape but is forever scarred by this. Another gem from Charco press that produced a couple of my favourite books last year have brought out another strong voice. Have you read any of Charco Press books yet?

Die, my love by Ariana Harwicz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Die, my love by Ariana Harwicz

Argentinean fiction

Original title – Matate, amor

Translators – Sarah Moses and Carolina Orloff

Source – review copy

This is the last of three books I was sent by Charco press earlier this year. I had reviewed the other two before the Man Booker longlist came out and this was on my reading pile so it was great to see it on the longlist and also a new publisher like Charco press on the list.Ariana Harwicz had been compared to Virginia Woolf and Nathalie Surraute. she is one off the most radical writers in Modern Argentina. This book is the first of a trilogy and her debut novel. She currently lives in France and this is the first book by her to be translated into English.

I’m at the table after dinner. The meal has been cleared away and all that’s left is my glass. The plates are drying on the rack, the salt is in its place and my husband has gone to lie down. The new dog is about to pisss somewhere. I know I have to get up, but I don’t I stretch my legs out onto another chair and nod off while sucking on a toothpick. Now the dog’s coming to piss under the table but I still don’t get up. My trousers are unbuttoned.

Her life has drawn to a halt in places and she can’t be bothered at times like here .

The book is narrated by an unnamed female narrator. She lives with her husband and their kids in a rural area of France. Now this is a book that floats in a world of no setting really as there is no names given to anyone just her husband my son and her. What we see is a woman struggling with her world. the world is one of those who dream of a world away from the city. You are given that this woman had followed her husband dreams to live this rural dream. A back to nature that for her is like an ever decreasing circle a world that is shrinking daily for her. At one point she mentions read Mrs Dalloway and there is a shared feeling of  being trapped in a world that we see over space of one day in Woolf’s  work here the whole experience is more drawn out and more horrific for it the gentle grinding hatred of her world the sheer horror of being alone in this rural idyll that has for her become like a journey into Conrad’s heart of darkness were violence may be the last way out.

I stay in the car, the windows foggy. I turn up the volume and take my foot of the clutch. “Mrs Dallowway is a novel about time and the interconnectivity of human existence”. How long has it been since I’ve heard that kind of language? Interconnectivity. Fucking hell. I try to turn the plastic cog but the seat win’t recline. My husband watches me swear from afar, reading my lips and smiling.He has a cigarette behind his ears like a shopkeeper. I wonder wg=hat i’d make of this very woodland , this rustic setting, the half built house, the man nailing down planks of wood, if a critic said my writing dealt with he “interconnectivity of human exixtence “I burst out laughing

A black humoured look at her life and lack of cultural outlets for her in the rural world alone as she is

This isn’t an easy read it is very much in the style of Woolf and for me, I was reminded of Duras the books I have read by her. It is a slow burning book of rural life but the underlying hatred of her world is slowly burning and shrink around her. I felt at times the scene in Brief Encounter where Laura is just sat listening to Rachmaninoff and her world seems to have trapped her. The Narrator is like Laura as she is trapped in her marriage she hasn’t an Alec for a glimmer of light no just a build hatred and disappointment of her life and her family as she shows her vulnerable nature and broken dreams, which can easily become some far worse you feel.

 

Slum Virgin by Gabriela Cabezón Cámara

Image result for slum virgin gabriela

Slum Virgin by Gabriela Cabezón Cámara

Argentinean fiction

Original title – La Virgen Cabeza

Translator – Frances Riddle

Source – Review copy

I reviewed the first of three books from New press Charco press last week a new publisher featuring the freshest voices in Latin American fiction. I was grabbed when I saw Andres Neuman was quoted on the front cover calling this book Pure dynamite. More than enough for me to want to read the book, having met and read Andres books I trust his taste. This was Gabriela debut novel and won a number of prizes when it came out. She has since written four more novels this is her first book to appear in English.

Oh, Quity, if you’d only started the story at the beginning you’d understand things so much better. What’s the beginning? There are loads of beginnings, my sweetness, because there are loads of stories, but I want to tell the story of this love of ours, which you don’t remember to well, Quity.You tell some things like the happened and some of the other things , well I don’t know what you do my love say all kinds of stupid stuff.So I’m going to tell our story myself

One of the chaoers where Cleo first speaks interupting Quity as she writes.

Slum virgin is told in the form of someone sitting writing a story about the Slum in Buenos Aires and a transvestite prostitute called Cleo. The main Narrator of the story is a journalist Quity who is searching for the story of the year to climb the ladder in her job at the newspaper when via a friend Daniel, the story of Cleo and how she is trying to better the slums where she lives. So the journalist goes where she has not been before to the slums to see what Cleo is trying to do for the slum people and herself as she had seen a vision fo the Virgin Mary telling her to sort her life and those around her out. The story is told mixing the slum world with Quity obvious classical world loving prose as she sees the world of the slum-like greek and classical myths. The two grow closer and closer as the book goes on.

I know I’m famous because I cantalk to the virgin and not because of my tits, even thou they are pretty big. For someone who claims to be straight, I have to say you went pretty crazy for them, and when I got these huge nipples that youlove so much and cost us a fortune to redo in Miami you made me feel like the wolfthat nursed beoth Remus and Romulus .

The quote comparing Cleo breast to the wolf from Classical greek myths

This book has a lovely feel to the prose it is written as thou we are reading Quity writing about the story in short piece almost like the small pieces for a newspaper with the continuing story of Cleo and the slum. But this is also interrupted at times as Cleo in her voice sets the record straight. Like in the start where Quity starts at the end of the story and Cleo interupts between chapters and says she should start at the start. I loved the vision of comparing the world to that of classical myth this is rather similar to Joyce and Ulysses where certain situations follow Homers prose. Her we see Cleo whose surname is the spanish for Wolf sees her impressive fake breast compared to that of the wolf that fed Romulus and Remus in classic myth. A powerful novella about trying to change the world in a world of drugs, secret police private security, transvestites, dealers and the down and outs in the underbelly of Buenos Aires.

Fireflies by Luis Sagasti

Image result for fireflies luis

Fireflies by Luis Sagasti

Argentinean fiction

Original title – Bellas Artes

Translator – Fionn Petch

Source – Review copy

I’m so pleased when I discover a new publisher. Charco press is a new publisher and is based in Scotland and wanting to bring the brightest new talents from Latin America. The first of three books I have been sent to read by them. This is one of those books that makes you remember why as a reader I have chosen to read fiction in translation. Luis Sagasti is a writer, Lecturer and art critic. He s also Curator of the museum of contemporary art in Bahia Blanca, they have an interesting blog

Beuys’ deep blue eyes seem to have cracked. He places his hands on the woman’s shoulders.She blinks awkwardly. Amd asks him: “is the story of the Tartars true? is Karl with the Tartars?”

Beuys removes his felt hat and holds it to his chest.The woman gazes at his scars and understood what she need to understand.

The hare understands art

is the anything to understand?

without the slightest doubt, art is the answer.

What he can’t be sure about is the question

Beuys was an enigma and again even his hat linked to Crimea and the Tartars !

In his song, Fireflies John grant says ~”She catches fireflies at the ice cream social and oh we watch them take flight” The title of this book in English is fireflies and the fireflies in these books are ideas. The book has a sebaldian feel to it a book where each part interconnects with earlier part a collection of small pieces about famous and less famous people. The core of the book is a story of Joesph Beuys and the aftermath of his crash in the second world war in Crimea, where he survived by being wrapped in felt and fat. Then how Gagarin got picked for the space flight over another man un the end. Urban myths like was it Pete Best in the abbey road cover in the background. The death of Antoine de Saint Exupery all gets mention and link in as we have eight stories or vignettes interlinking.

Yuri Gararin was chosen from among 300 candidates to make the first manned voyage outside the earths atmosphere. The son of a milkmaid and carpenter upholds the spirit of Socialism better than one whose father is a teacher and has a foreign sounding name: Gherman Titov misses out after two tie-breaks.

How He ended up in space , remind me of an exhbition Star city about Soviet space flight and art.

As I said this is hard to pin down what it is as a book? It is my good friend Susan from Istros they have a word in Slovenian for good prose that walks the line between fiction and non-fiction like the great book Panorama this is a book that rips at the soul of the reader. For me, I love when a book connects to my own life and this is what has happened here, in particular, the piece about Joesph Beuys rung with me as I lived for a time in the town of his birth just as they were doing a museum at his birthplace and my partner of the time her father lived in Kassel where there is a number of Beuys installations the 700s oaks rung the connection to the crashing in the forest of Crimea he and other plants 700 trees each with a special stone marker. then remembering being amazed the first time I heard the story of the piece  Fettecke another line back to the Crimea and the fat the smothered his body. This is what great books like this do ignite a light in the reader’s mind. A Spanish review describes the book as being like opening pages and linking through a web browser. Fireflies is an apt title as they light up the dark and fly around so quickly, like them this is a book small but full of light easily read in an evening you’ll be thinking about it for days after and going back and rereading parts.

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