Elena Knows by Claudia Piñeiro

Elena Knows by Claudia  Piñeiro

Argentinean crime fiction

Original title – Elena sabe

Translator – Francis Riddle

Source – Review copy

I have often looked at books by the Argentina writer Claudia Piñeiro her books were previously brought out by Bitter Lemon press I have one on my shelves All yours which I have had on my shelves for a couple of years but when this arrived from Charco Press a publisher whose books over recent years.  I have really enjoyed it. The new book also mentions she is one of the most translated writers from Argentina and also has won awards for crime and lit fiction.  I decided it was time to read a book by her and with the mention of Thomas Bernhard on the back of the cover and a quote from his book Gargoyles at the start I knew this was the right book to start. The book is set over the course of one day as a mother tries to find out what happened to her daughter.

The trick is to lift up the right foot, just a few centimetres off the floor, move it forward through the air, just enough to get oast the left, and when it gets as far as it can go, lower it. That’s all it is Elena thinks. But she think this, and even though her brain orders the movement, her right foor dosen’t move forward through the air. It does not lower back down. It’s so simple. Nut it doesn’t do it So Elena wits and waits. In her kitchen. She has to take the train into the city at ten O’clock; the one after that , the eleeven O’clock, won’t do because she took the pill at nine.

She captures Elena’s struggle to move through her Parkinson’s

Elena is in her sixties and has Parkinson’s the book follows the day. The book follows her medication regime so we see how the symptoms of the disease mean this day will be a real ordeal for her so as the tablets help ease the pain she has she heads out across the city.As Elena does this she fills in the parts of Elena’s life. She has set out to find out what happened to her daughter Rita a devout churchgoer that was found hanging in the church she used to go to but it had been stormy and raining that day and she never went in storms as she had a phobia of lightening These and other things around her daughters’ death that aren’t just right. And she feels the police who opened and closed the case quickly saying it was suicide. She found out that her daughter had a connection to a woman Isobel a friend of the two of them whom she hadn’t seen in 20 years and this is what the day is about to find out what she had to do with Isobel and can she find some more out about Rita. Will it answer the questions she had? will she learn more and why did Rita end up at the church?

From the start Father juan was one of the least willing to talk about it, repeatedly deflecting Inspector Avellenda’s attempts to meet with him. Either you’re not insistent enough on Father Juan takes you for an Idiot, Inspector You’re not saying I should add him to the list of suspects are you Elena ? i already told you, you have the obligation to investigate all possible theroies Elena waited for the right time,, not too close to the daily masses, or the hours reserved for confessions, or to siesta.

Such a tight window to talk with dfather Juan what had the church to do with Rita’s death ?

This is the afterword is an attempt to relaunch Piñeiro as a more lit writer which this book is at its heart is a question that are larger than Rita death of the Church and the country the book was written just as the laws around Abortion changed in Argentina when the book came out in 2007  maybe that was something to do with it but you need to read the bok=ok. Know the question of Bernhard it is mention there is a style of writing like his and there is Elena journey has pacing like a Bernhard novel I think of something like his book which also takes place over a period of time and there is also a bitterness driving Elena to discover the truth of what happened. As her books from what I read have a crime element but also a large dollop of woman and Issues and social Issues. I will be reading her other book for next year’s Spanish lit month as her is a perfect crossover for both the second month of Spanish lit month and Woman in Translation month. Have you read her other books ?

Winstons score – B+ A great intro to a new writer to the blog

 

Ramifications by Daniel Saldaña París

Ramifications by Daniel Saldaña París

Mexician Fiction

Original title – El nervio principal

Translator – Christina MacSweeney

Source – personal copy

I’m rather late starting this month’s Spanish lit month well I have started with another Charco press book before I get to the week one book of a perfect cemetery. I have both the books that have been translated by Daniel Saldaña París into English which is the reason I decided it was time to read one of them. He has been in the list of the best Mexican writers that came out in 2017 and the Bogota 39 list of the best writers under forty from Latin America. He started with three poetry collections and then has written four novels two of which have been translated into English. This book follows one man looking back on his childhood as he is laid confined to a bed.

Teresa walked out one Tuesday around midday. I can’t remember exactly which month, but it must have been either the end of July or the beginning of August , because ,y siter and I were still on H=holiday. I always hated being left in the care of Mariana, who systematically ignored me for the whole day, barricaded in her bedroom with the music playing at a volume that even to me a boy of ten, seemed ridiculous. So that Tues, I resented it when, Mumgot up from the table after lunch and announcecd she was going out “look after your brother, Mariana”, she said in a flat voice , that was the way shegenerally spoke, with hardly any intonation, like a computer giving instructions or someone on qutismspectrum(Even mow, when no one else is around, I sometimes imitate her, and it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that writing this is, in some form, an effort to find an echo of that monotone voice in the written world).

The opening lines and his mother walking out in 1994

This is a novel that our unnamed Narrator traces a man’s childhood as he tries to piece together what happened in his youth when his mother Teresa  just left him and his sister and father on a Tuesday. As our narrator tries to piece together the past.why his mother just left to join the Zapatistas and left them with a father who is distant a man that struggles to cope. Our narrator becomes obsessed with origami which he did to occupy time but also made him a quiet boy as his 10-year-old mind fills the gaps, but it also meant he grew into a quiet lonely man. So in the story, as he recalls this we question what we remember as now 32 he is laid in a bed the family bed that his father had passed away from a few years earlier. It is that he is sorting through his family’s papers as he learns some truths that have struck him down. he is unable to get out of bed. So he thinks of the time in 1994 when this all happened. It is a story of growing up with a huge void in one’s life but it also questions how we remember our lives when we are so young what do we recall is it colored by what we read and saw at the time. It is a book about coming of age amidst the chaos that was Mexico at the time when a man that is a reclusive soul looks back at what may be made him that way all the years ago.

My attempts at origami grew worse by the day, or at least that was my impression. Beforethe mastering the crane and the frog, I launched unto more complex figures. The result; unrecognisable lumps of paper that had been folded and unfolded too many times (Pper has that drawback; it’s made to remember all our errors, whether it’s when writing on it, as I do noe, or when folding and unfolding it, as I did then.)

His hobby shuts him of from the world but is maybe the way he remebers the past fold by fold but are they in the right order !

This is one of those books that hasn’t a lot of plot but a lot of how the world was for one small boy as the action flicks between the action of the past and the present it is a  book about what makes our memories of these timelines twist at times as we see how the present can ooze into the past. I enjoyed the pieces where he recalled the world cup in 1994 which I remember as at the time I was living in Germany as was visiting the Uk with my German partner at a time shortly after some of the events in the book when Bulgaria that had earlier played Mexico knocked out the germans. like is origami this is trying to fold the past into a swan or something without missing the folds memories fade and get blend with what we learn after them this is what we learn here. A story of a lonely boy as a lonely man piece together his past.

Winstons score – B A strong story of childhood recalled after the space left by a mother that has gone !

A Musical Offering by Luis Sagasti

A Musical Offering by Luis Sagasti

Argentinean fiction

Orignal title – Una ofrenda musical

Translator – Fionn Petch

Source – Personal copy

When it comes up toward the man booker every year I try to buy a couple of books. That I feel may be on the longlist. This is the first I have brought to read. It is the second book the Charco press has brought out from Luis Sagasti. I was a huge fan of his first book so don’t know why I haven’t got to this sooner but you all know the quandary too many books too little time and I can be such a firefly in my reading habits buzzing brightly from place to place. Sagasti is a teacher now he was a curator at one point as well as a writer and art critic.

The most famous performance of the Variations, a feat not unlike swimming across the magellan Strait, is by the Canadian pianist Glenn Gould. In fact, he recorded two; between them stretch twenty-six years in the life of a planet. The first version is as urgent and flamboyant as Baroque music permist, and was taped in 1955, when Gould was just twenty-three years old, The second is a recording made shortly before he died from a stroke at the age of fifty in 1981. For all his ggenius, Gould couldn’t escape the fate of the wise; the slower pace of the later version is that of someone who knows we only leave a circle before taking the first step.

Gould was also used as a character in  a novel by Thomas Bernhard.

I must admit before I review this I am no classical music fan I do have the Goldberg variations I had brought them after I watched the film 32 short films about Glenn Gould a number of years ago. So I was pleased that this book had chosen one of the few pieces of classical music I have to listen to more than once. The book like his earlier book is a collection of interconnection short stories that all interlock like one of those puzzle balls made of wood where they interlock to form a complete the stories range from just a couple of pages to two longer stories. The opening story the main one about the Bach work is about how it came about as a harp piece to ease into sleep the count that was Bach benefactor. This leads into digressions of Glenn Gould the Beatles connections between them both this is a book with no real plot but you can not put it down. Other stories range from a massive organ that sets off an avalanche over the village of HimmelHein. A rift of Silences from Ligeti work through the works that lead up to Cages 4 33 of silence where the silence is always different due to the setting then the lack of silence on the Beatles interlocking back to the other stories.

The funeral March composed for a deaf man , by Alphonse Allais , could well be a forerunner of 4′ 33′, though it is more like a painting than any other art form, as the silences are not even marked on the score. Unlike Cage’s piece, the march was not intended to be performed.

Allaishad created a series of monochromatic works. firsr communion of Anameic girls in the snow of 1883 would appear to predate Malevich’s white squre. But total silence can’t be possible there, not with such a figurative title.

A art piece that was a music core that was similar to Cage’s 4′ 33′

I am a huge fan of most of the books the Charco have brought out. I know I tend to be positive about most of the books I read but this is one of those I put in the class above everything If I did a letter score it would be mostly B’s or C’s for what I read but this is an A+ in the time I have blogged if I get two or three of these a year I am happy this is one of those books that fire the brain makes you root out the album you not listened to for a long while or want to rewatch the film about Gould also I had my Beatles CDs on today. The Bach piece has been in a Bernhard book and The Richard Powers book the Gold Bug Variations. Sagasti’s works are often compared with Sebald or Flights both mentioned in connection to Sagasti. But for me, I was also reminded of the Nocilla trilogy and another Spanish book I read last year Glass eye. Both of which like this mix fiction and history together which for me is a mix I love it’s like a mixtape to get it right takes time and thought to get the right mix of stories is harder than you think. Anyway as I said earlier here we go my first score. Have you read this or any other titles from Charco press that have you enjoyed?

Winstons Score A+

Holiday Heart by Margarita Garcia Robayo

Holiday Heart by Margarita Garcia Robayo

Columbian fiction

Original title – Tiempo muerto

Translator – Charlotte commbe

Source – personal copy

I add a few books to my TBR that I felt maybe in line to make the man booker list that I hadn’t been sent just to get a leg up so here is the second novel to be translated into English by the prize-winning Columbian writer Margarita Garcia Robaye that has been brought out by Charco press that has been bringing out some wonderful books from Latin America the last couple of years. Born in Cartagena on the coast of Columbia she won the prestigious Casa De Las Americas prize for her book worse things. She currently lives in Argentina.

Ar around 5 p.m. he received an email from Gionzalo and Elisa – Gonzaloandelisa@gmail.com- invinviting them over fro a barbecue. They lived nbext door and they saw them often but not particularly close friends. He bumped into Gonzalo most days when they each took out the rubbish to the bim they shared, halway between two houses. The bin was a bit further away, so they walked that stretch together as they discussed the news. usually terrorism, They talked about Isis, Boko haram, Hezbollah and the FARC as of discussing the performance of different soccer teams. He couldn’t recall how this had become their go-to-subject, but they’d kept it up for years, This was handy for Pablo because it allowed them to dance around more delicate subjects such as the fact that Gonzalo, a while back, had stuck his hands up Pablo’s sister’s skirt

There friends afre most latin American but it seems strange that talk could be about anything but Covoid nowdays.

What this book does is dissects a relationship falling apart a marriage dissolving. The heart of the book is a Columbian couple living in the US Pablo and Lucia. Maybe at the heart of what the problem is the way they have adapted to the change of Homeland Pablo is still feeling drawn to his homeland and keeping his identity whereas his with it seems has never really felt at home. They have made a life with their twins but even then Lucia takes the front foot on how the kids are raised. They have split and then Pablo ends up in Hospital with what is called Holiday heart and this it seems is a condition that is caused by over living so when at Christmas people overeat and drink it cause temporary heart issue. Pablo trying to write that epic novel of his homeland whilst his wife writes a piece about their life in the US this is what seems to be the heart of the problem one moving one-way one moving another way. This so the view of both outdated racism that hasn’t changed since their time in the US. Pablo is a man of his homeland he likes to womanize in a way he could have been a character from a Marquez novel. This is an insight into a marriage falling apart bit by bit and looking at how and why?

That night , after they’re all showered and fed, Lucia logs onto Skype and calls Pablo so the kids can say hello. It’s hard to get full sentences put of the children, but they tell him, as best they can about the seaweed, the brunch, their bodies burried in the sand, Then they started yawning and Lucia sends them off to their twin beds, in the room Cindy had decorated with iold stuffed toys she found in the apartment, left over from a previous life.

“They’re shattered” she say. She is sitting at the table. The sounds of the waves drifts through the open balcony door. Pabli is wearing the same dressing gown he had on when she left. She wonders if he even showered

HEart breaking in place I remember my parent divorce diffferent circumstances but the loss of time over the years.

This is an interesting look at how the immigrant life can strain but also changed people over time what has happened is they have moved in two ways Lucia although they live in a sort of Latin American bubble with there friends and family she has settled and maybe it seems never felt settled in her younger life whereas Pablo writing about his home maybe has more of a Columbian heart than a holiday heart as he has left but still lives there in his heart he drinks to much and cheats frequently as his marriage falls apart this is told with an honest eye on events. Has he a real heart problem or is it just the bitter dregs of a marriage? WE see they should be apart but it is the time and the twins that kept them going as an observer those cracks seem so much wider than they would in the bubble of a marriage.  Have you read this book what did you think of it?

Fate by Jorge Consiglio

Fate by Jorge Consiglio

Argentinian fiction

Original title – Tres Monedas

Translators – Carolina Orloff and Fionn Petch

Source – Personal copy

Another gem from Charco Press. I didn’t get his first book from them Southerly. But ordered this the other week as it appealed. Jorge Consiglio has published four novels as well as Poetry and Short stories. He has won a number of prizes in his native Argentina and in Spain as well.  This is the second of his books to be translated into English. There is a great intro about the book by the writer where he mentions a woman that missed a train that crashed in Buenos Aires a crash in which 51 people died. This leads to a thought about Fate what is our fate and then he said whilst writing the book he was also watching and was drawn into the story of the film “The Third man”.

The Colombian disappeared into the subway Karl walked down Corrientes towards Pueyrredon. He was taller than everyone else. He crossed Uruguay Street and stopped short in front of a bookshop. His eye roved over the window display beofre he carrid on. Marina  Kezelman was turning forty in two weeks and he wanted a gift that would suprise her. They had met in a bar in Madrid a decade before. Everything had happened very quickly. Moved by desire and, above all, an extaggerated sense of honesty, they’d made their decisions.

KArl has no idea of what lies ahead here in his first chapter.

The book is two stories intertwined both are about relationships but one is starting that of Amer an up and coming taxidermist he is in a  therapy group where he falls for the younger than him Clara. This relationship is just beginning, But Clara is the one person in the book that is just told through the eyes of another Amer he has a view of her and you hope that the real Clara is near that or will Fate interrupt them ! then we have a relationship at the other end of the spectrum and that is  Karl an Oboist and his meteorologist wife Marina we meet her as she is trying to kill the ants in her house and her Son Simon. Then as the story unfolds in the short chapters that shift from one character to another Marina is having a fling with a work colleague Zarate. This leads to a violent scene that affects Karl’s oboe playing and reminds me of the sudden burst of violence that was in the third man which is the link to the whole story who was the third man when the body appears. Then later on in the book, there is another nod when the son Simon has a love of The Ferris wheel.

Clara also changed position – and subject. She talked about life after her separation. Dammed blessed happiness, she said. Amer put the kettle on again to prepare some more mate. They say beekeeping is good for reducing stress, Clara remarked. Amer felt as if he were watchoing a performance, but this impression didn’t weaken Clara’s words. She was silent for a few seconds.

Amer views clara through his rose tinted glasses.

This is a well-paced novel that follows two relationships but like a train, on the track, the fate of all those involves seems on a track the marriage breaking up, but also the workings of having a failing marriage what to do with Simon this is sort of a rerun for Karl as he has another child back in Germany from an earlier marriage. Then we have Amer a man that works very hard on his animals and maybe he is building a Clara like one of his dead animal the outside of them appears perfect but then he has worked her to be maybe more than she was. The nods to the Third man like Simon liking a Ferris wheel which of course is where there is a great monologue from Harry Lime. This follows four well five if you include Marina’s affair with Zurate over what are two of the hardest things starting a relationship making the right move what card has fate dealt you and then the break up of marriage but when that path is changed what happens when fate intervenes! Have you read either of his books ?

 

The Adventures of China Iron by Gabriela Cabezón Cámara

The Adventures of China Iron by Gabriela Cabezón Cámara

Argentinean  fiction

Original title – Las Aventuras de la China Iron

Translators – Fiona Mackintosh and Iona Macintyre

Source – personal copy

I had chosen on my own list of the books I wanted to see on the Booker longlist the book Loop was one from Charco I had already read, I have so far reviewed a number of books from Charo press over the last few years. including Die my love which made the longlist two years ago and I had reviewed the other book from Gabriela Slum Virgin. So when this made the list I got it straight away. This is her last novel to be published in Spanish and the second to be translated into English. This is a historic reframing of the Classic poem Martin Fierro which is considered an important work of historic Argentinean literature.

It’s difficult to know what you remeber, is it what actually happened? Or is it the story that you’ve told and re-told and polished like a gemstone over the course of years, like something that has lustre but lifeless as a stone? If it weren’t for my dreams, for the recurring nightmare I have where I’m a gruby barefoot girl again, with nothing to my name but a sweet little puppy and a few ragged clothes; if it weren’t for the thump I feel here in my chest, the tightness in my throat on the rare occasions that I go the city and see a skinny , bedraggled little creature hardly there at all; basicaly, if it weren’t for my dreams and the trembling of my body, I wouldn’t know what I’m tell you is true

The opening of the chapter wagon from China black about her journey!

The book takes a woman that could be Martin Fierro’s wife she has a husband that has left her behind like in the epic poem. Her name is China Iron(Fierro is Spanish for Iron). She has been left in a remote encampment so when she sees the chance to leave with an English woman who is heading off in a wagon the Woman Liz is a Scottish woman fierce in spirit. The two women and another rancher Rosario looking for fertile land for his cattle. The trio well the story soon ends up as the two women as we pass through the hinterlands of Argentina. We see the wonderful countryside which is wonderfully described. As the two women draw closer Liz teaches China about the Brtish empire as the head through the pampas and fort. Then they hit Indian territory as the women grow closer the is an awakening of other feelings in them both. Later on in the book to add a twist Martin Henradez the writer of Martin Fierro is added as a character. A book that adds a feminist angle to the Argentinean classic.  It also gives a voice to the LGBT characters at a time when they would haven’t been able to have a voice.

While the land grew into a whole globe in front of me, another world took shape on the wagon. Me, Liz and Estreya were a trinty, within a rectangle strating from the oxen,, one line along the roof, another at the trunk to the rear of the wagon and one running along the ground

“Only here in the pampa could a wagon create a birs eye view, observed Liz and so I found out what prespective was and noted that indedd, the few animal thst stand out on

Later on when the wagon is in the Pampas

I really liked Slum virgin and in parts, I loved this book we have in the shadow panel talked about it and I think a deeper knowledge of Martin Fierro is maybe needed especially later in the book which with its poetic [assages and the introduction of Hermandez mirrors the poem even more. Bolano also mentioned Fierro in his book the secret of evil that had a piece about it and Pynchon also referred to it in Gravity’s rainbow this work is the Argentinean Don Quixote it is at the heart of what makes the males in argentian what they are in a way so when Gabriela takes a side shoot at this work and reframes it around the woman left behind doing something similar to what Geraldine brooks did with her work March which swaps the classic Little women from the female narrative to the male narrative of Mr. March heading homing here Gabriela has done the opposite and taken a female narrative to a great male narrative and also add a twist of a love affair and set all this against the unspoiled background of 1872 Argentina and the wanting of British to come there add many threads to this work but I still felt Had I a deeper reading of the poem I had read the first couple of pages to get a feel of it but felt a closer reading would be required. Have you read this book?

Loop by Brenda Lozano

Loop by Brenda Lozano

Mexican fiction

Original title – Cuaderno ideal

Translator – Annie McDermott

Source – personal copy

I often think what has been great in the last ten years since I started the blog is those small publishers that fill gaps in the world of translated literature you didn’t know where there and here is a perfect example Charco press over the last few years have brought use dome of the most interesting and original writers from Latin America. Brenda Lozano has published two novels so far. She was another of the writers that back in 2007 made the Bogota 39 list. I do hope they keep making these lists from around the world you look at the list for Bogota and it has produced so many great books and this is one that like when I read the other Charco press book Fireflies.

At a dinner party when he was twenty one, Proust was asked some questions, Among them, what was his favourite bird was. The swallow, he replied. Proust didn’t invent the questions known as the “Proust Questionaire”, but his ansewers were so good they made the questionaire famous. Proust responded to the questionaireon two separate occasions. He was fifteen when he was asked his favourite colour. “THe Beauty is not in the colours, but in the harmony”. he said

At fifteen I still tought the electric pencil sharpener seperated me from adult life. If I’d neem asked my favourite colour I would have sain the colour of my blue pencil sharpener, but Proust’s favourite bird is alos my facvourite bird.

I like this passage and my favourite bird is a kingfisher the flash of them you glimpse is always a treat to see.

Loop is the narrative of an unnamed woman who is staying at home well recovering from an illness whilst her boyfriend is away for a trip too Spain. This isn’t a novel or a notebook more of doodling instead of random art this is a collection of random vignettes of a woman waiting for her man a musing on the world she inhabits. Thus we get wonderful nuggets around the Pessoa imaging ordering five drinks one each for his heteronyms. Lispector and here placing of the smallest woman in the land of pygmies from Central Congo. A piece on Proust and the question around his books, she imagines other writers’ versions of the questionnaire. All this is intertwined with her everyday life family and parties. Her love of notebooks and a growing feeling that she is becoming like Penelope in the Odyssey awaiting Odysseyus return. Even her mother emails saying she has seen the doctor and he said to visit and they love to see Jonas and her on his return from Spain and dealing with his mothers death. This passage is near the end and he still hasn’t come home.

“When will you be back Jonas ?” I’m not sure, he answered I was about to get up. He wrapped his arms around me and pulled me back to bed, and yes, we did it in the morning. Not another line without sayinfg it, I’m going ti say it right now: last year I had an accident I almost didn’t come back from and not long afterwards I discovered sex with Jonas, Good sex, I mean, In that order.

Sex and love. That order. The death of Jonas mum . My non death, That disorder.

Our narrator and her lover. Her past illness and Jonas Mum’s passing

This sits in that space between linear narrative and no narrative it has a progression our narrator lets slip nuggets of her life and a slow recovery her love for her absent man returned home to Spain for his ailing mother. Her hunt for the perfect notebook is her notebook but she loves notebooks. Loop is a patchwork of life titbits of this and that builds a picture of our narrator and the world around her. I was reminded of Duck Newburyport it has a similar digressive style of narrative that drifts here and there. We find the worries of living in the violent heart of Mexico I was reminded that had Bolano lived he would have captured the increasingly violent world of Mexico city. Add to that dwarves and David bowie and it is hard to see why I loved this book it is an example of what I said in the first passage of what I love around small publishers and that brings us books like this Fireflies and books like Flights from Fitzcarraldo and Panorama from Istros all play with the narrative style and what a novel is in this modern world.

Trout , belly up by Rodrigo Fuentes

Image result for trout belly up rodrigo

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?

Resistance by Julián Fuks

 

ResistanceJulian.jpg

 

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.

 

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