The salt of the Earth by Jozef Wittlin

The Salt of the Earth by Jozef Wittlin

Polish Fiction

Original title – Sól ziem

Translator – Patrick John Corness

Source – review copy

Some publisher do a great job at rediscovering old works that have fallen out of print or haven’t been translated into English or maybe were due a new translation the latter is the case for this book they brought out another book from Wittlin which was a success so they got a new translation of this book. Which first came out in English in 1941 and had been out of print for a long time. Jozef Wittlin had an interesting life join the Polish army then initially when they were combined into the Austrian army. He then studied in Vienna and joined with Joseph Roth his friend. He got scarlet fever and end up a prisoner of war working on a translation of the Odyssey. He after the war traveled Europe and promoted Pacifism and then s[ent time in France collecting his materials together to write the Salt of the earth which has the tale of an ordinary man caught up in the madness of World war One.

Piotr’s entire life involved carrying things. As a child he had suffered from that infamous Hutsul affliction for which the human face had the French to thank, apparently. Its symptons were typicalnose and certain defects of vision, which however, did not devolp further with age, Independently of the french Influences, Pitor body was also subject toEnglish ones, the rickets. And so France and England, those two warring elements that had done battle in the historical arena over man centuries, settled their differences in the body of a Hutsul child, To the end of his life Piotr remained bandy-legged.

PIotr is described here as a sort of uncanilly youth.

The novel begins high up in the war as the war begins and Franz Josef signs the papers to start the war. This is in contrast to the book itself which is based around one man’s experience of the war. That man Piotr Niewiadomski is what one would call a peasant he is an illegitimate child and has grown up as a rather Gangly uncannily youth. He dreams of a simple life working on the railways he is a porter but sees the chance to become a linesman. But he is now faced with the chance of being thrust into the war. He ends up as an Infantryman. He has t I wait until he leaves and as they are all due to leave there is a Solar eclipse leading to the feeling of the end of the world, but he is still on rails as he catches the train to Hungary this is where the story shows the madness of war when Piotr is caught up and gets on the wrong side of the sergeant this shows the madness of rank and war as they draw closer to the frontline and battles. It shows a simple man caught in the wheels of a war machine!

Pitor duties were exceptionally onerous in those days,but he managed. He had acquired a fondness for the railway – thatis, for the section entrusted to him. Every day, he walked the four kilometers to signal box 87, beyond which his responsbilties ended. He left his post only when Magda visited. She stood in for him competently, just like a legitimate signalman’s wife. The sight of young girl standing at her post with the little red flag had already on several occasions brought smiles to the weary faces of those returning from death. As if life itselfhad placed her on watch.

The rail is all he dreams about at the sart of the book.

This was meant to be [art of a trilogy of novels he had planned to write but he had the case with the other two works taken and lost at a later date which only a small fragment remain which is at the end of the book. It shows how hard it was for a simple man like Piotr to avoid getting caught up in the madness of the war he is like a polish baldrick maybe a bit cleverer than but a man that has a lover and a simple dream of being a linesman that because of the action in the first chapter. He gets sent to join the army and caught up in the madness of the war machine this is very like The way Blackadder describes his superiors they pay little head for the man on the ground at the front in that trench facing death. Whether today tomorrow but always there rather than planning and not taking part. This follows his own view of the War and his Pacifist point of view. It a shame we never knew more of the trilogy but it sits next to the great books of world war one as for me I have not read a book that captures the build-up to war so well and tension and horror of what was to come so well. Sasson in Fox hunting man captures the upper-class view somewhat but this is the lower ranks view. Another great discovery from Pushkin.

The siege of Troy by Theodor Kallifatides

The siege of Troy by Theodor Kallifatides

Swedish fiction

Original title – Slaget om Troja

Translator – Marlaine Delargy

Source – review copy

Here is a work by the Greek Immigrant Swedish writer Theodor Kalifatides after doing his military service in Greece he emigrated in his early twenties to Sweden. First, as a teacher of philosophy as a school at the university, he was then editor of one of the best know Swedish literary magazines. He has written over forty novels he was one of the first writers to touch on immigration in Swedish fiction. He was chairman of Swedish pen in the nineties here he has taken a classic greek work and reworked it around the world war two.

So I thought I would do that too. I will tell you the story of the Iliad from memory for as long we’re sitting here.”It’s not as if we have anything else to do””

That was true. WE didn’t have anything else to do in the cave, apart from trying to protect ourselves from the assorted bugs.

“So when was thios war ?” Dimitra asked.

“”It was very long time ago- more than three thousand years,” Miss replied.

Dimittra sighed. “Can’t wait”.

Miss took no notice. I didn’t think it sounded very excing either, but as I said we didn’t have much else to do, so Miss began her story

She told of her hearing Homer from professional actor when she was a young girl. The boys aren’t to keen at first but they get gripped by it.

This is told from the perspective of a pupil at a small Greek village we never know his name his friend is called Dimitra. As it is nearing the end of the second world war and the Germans are still in Greece but there is a sense of the end. But they are being bombed when they end up in a cave and the young female teacher that they adore even when later she has found herself a boyfriend our narrator forgives her. She decides the best way to take the boy’s and girls’ minds of the bombing and what has been happening she decides to recount the Iliad from memory. As a child, she had seen it told to her by an old man a performer that went from town to town doing Homer works. Initially they arent keen but she grabs them with this 3000-year-old tale!So as the days go by we are given small chunks of the Trojan war this is interspersed with the events around the village as the children rush to her there teacher telling the next part of the story like Helen and her two loves that eventually they face each other in battle. These battles are mirrored in the real world.

The two armies rushed at each other like waves rushing towards the rocks, Honors were even to begin with, and both sides lost many men and horses it wasn’t until the afternoon that Acheans gained the upper hand, not least to agamemnon their supreme commander, who strode along mowing down his opponents like a farmer scything his wheat. He showed no mercy, not even when two inexperienced young men fell to their knees and begged for their lives. It is the first time we kill that is difficult after that, it quickly becomes habit.

The great Greek leader Agamemnon in the war is fearless and ruuthless as he kills at will maybe an echo to the present !!

This is a clever way to make the work of Homer available to new readers, I am not well-read in the classics .but this is a clever way to open the door to classics. He has made it readable by trim parts of the original but making you want to read the original. There is also a clever mirroring of the events that are read and the events in the present for Miss and her pupils. The Iliad showed the horrors of the Trojan war but we maybe could have done with a more violent present would have been interesting but the main character is just 15 and not yet a man he knows what is happening but isn’t involved so we just see the glimpse a 15 year would see of the war of the Nazi’s parading around. He had reworked The Iliad into a more mortal version of the work playing down the god’s role which given the setting of Miss telling the story to her adoring pupils is apt.

 

The posthumous memoirs of Bras Cubas by Joaquim Maria Machado De Assis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The posthumous memoirs of Bras Cubas by Joaquim Maria Machado De Assis

Brazilian fiction

Original title – Memorias Posthumas de Braz Cubas

Translator – Gregory Rabassa

Source – personal copy

I always like adding depth to the blog some older writers from around the world.So here I review the second book on the blog from the Brazilain writer Machado De Assis He managed a successful career as a Bureaucrat as well as become a successful writer first with poetry then a series of novels it was when this book came out that he became a really well known in Lit circles in Brazil. The book followed the death of a friend that left him melancholic and thinking about death.

For some time I debated over whether I should start these memoirs at the beginning or at the end, that is, whether I shuld put my birth of my death in first place. Since common usage would call for beginning with birth, two considerations led me to adopt a different method: the first is that i am not exactly a write who is dead but a dead man who is a writer, for whom the grave was a second cradle, the second is that the writing be more distinctive and novel in that way. Moses, who also wrote about his death,didn’t place it at the opening but at the close: a radical differecne between this book and the Pentateuch.

The opening lines explain the choice of style for the book

 

This is a strange book as it is the memoirs of a dead man that he wrote after he died he tells us this early on in the book. As we follow Bra Cubas life as he tells us in a quirky style of short chapters that vignettes of his life from his childhood onwards. but he was a spoilt rich child maybe this explains why his life is never quite right. He also abused the slaves his family had at the time. He then goes on to study law. His wilder years before he settles   Sleeping and falling in love with a prostitute that all the boys loved at the time. He also deals with his mother’s death and ends up in Rio. This is where he starts to meet Virgilia a woman that is the love of his life they never quite get it there she marries someone else he decides to become involved in politics. But he is a man that always sees his world as half empty and his relationships and life all reflect this so when he re-meets Virgilia and they see each other things still don’t go his way. His political career grows but he then is out of favor and starts a pape as a  member of the opposition.

Virgilia ? But, then, was it the same lady who some year later ….? The very same. It was precisely the lady who was to be present during my last days in 1869 and who before, long before, had played a ample part in my most intimate sensations. At that time she was only fifteen or sixteen years old. She was possibly the most daring creatureof our race and, certainly, the most wilful.I shan’t say that she was already first in beauty, ahead of the other girls of the time, because this isn’t a novel, where the author gilds reality and close his eyes to feckles and pimles.

I liove this description of the love of his life .

This is an amazing book for the time it mixes the absurd style of a book like Lawrence Sterne’s Tristam Shandy another fictional biography. De Assis said he was influenced by this book and also the French masterpiece journey around my room by Zavier De Maistre which is another unusual and unique book in style.  But he also mixes realist lit of the day from the likes of Zola and Dickens which showed the world warts and all. We are given this view of the world  Bra Cubas gives of Brazil he grew up in. It captures the wide range of people in Brazil from those nameless slaves to Bra Cubas and those he sees go above him in his life in the upper reaches of Brazilian life. Bra Cubas is  a man that is a normal man, not a hero never really successful in fact in a lot of ways he is a man that things never quite pan out failed romances the sense that he is maybe marked for his younger days in later life. I liked this much more than the other book by De Assis I read a few years ago I see in this how well read he was it is said he read in five languages and you can see what an influence he was for the Latin American writers that followed him. Borges for example in the short choppy chapters that could each be like the small gems  of short stories  that Borges did so well. Have you read De Assis ?

A cat, A man And two women by Junichiro Tanizaki

 

A Cat

A cat, a man and two women by Junichiro Tanizaki

Japanese fiction

Original title – Neko to Shōzō to Futari no Onna

Translator – Paul McCarthy

Source – personnel copy on Kindle

I have been using my Kindle a bit more recently as I had a few books I had brought cheap and want to read this being one of them. Tanizaki is a writer I had to want to feature on the blog for a while. He was one of the best writers of the mid 20th century. He himself was a translator working a lot during his life translating the Epic Tales of Genji into modern Japanese. He also was known forthright intimate nature of his writing. This is a lesser work but for me a very personal insight into a family life.

Shozo repeated the same thing over and over again. He would give her a fish, then himself a little drink, and calling ‘Lily’ would raise the next prize high. There must originally have been some twelve or thirteen mackerel on Shozo’s plate, each about two inches long, of which he himself had actually eaten perhaps three or four. For the rest, he had simply sucked out a bit of the vinegar dressing before giving the flesh to Lily. ‘Ohh-ohh … owww! That hurts!’ Shozo let out a shriek: Lily had leapt onto his shoulders and dug in her claws.

Shozo even feeds the cat more than himself

The book as the title suggests is about a Man Shozo, he is on his second marriage that is the two women referred to in the title of his first and second wives. There is also Shozo Cat Lily. The story focus on the relationship between the four characters. This happens when the first wife asks for Lily the cat back Shinako a seamstress by trade hasn’t got over losing her husband. She knows that Lily the cat may bring him back to her. Now his current wife isn’t a fan of Lily this is shown when she isn’t happy when she cooks 13 pieces of fish for her husband and he gives most of it to the cat. They even share the bed together at night. Who will win this power battle between the two women the rather lazy husband and the cat Lily?

Now, Fukuko was a cousin of Shozo’s; and, given the circumstances under which she became his wife, there was no need for her to worry about pleasing a difficult mother-in-law. So from her second day of married life, she did just as she pleased in everything. All the same, she could hardly stand by and watch her husband trying to wield a kitchen knife, so in the end she made the marinated fish for both of them, though under protest. To make matters worse, they had been dining off mackerel for five or six days running. Then, two or three days ago, it had struck her: Shozo wasn’t even eating the food he’d insisted on having, ignoring his wife’s complaints; instead, he was giving it all to the cat! The more she thought about it, the clearer it all became: the mackerel were small, with little bones, easily chewed; there was no need to fillet them, and they could be served cold; and one got a lot for one’s

He married a distant relative but his mother made life hard and now the cat and ex aren’t helping either !

This is really a mans ode to the cat. Lilly is the one character from the book I’d like to meet. Shozo is a lazy man that has lost one wife. But end with a younger model but at the end of the day is more into his cat than his wife even sharing the bed with the Cat then we have Shinako a perfect example of the scorned wife she wants to use Lilly as a pawn in her game to get back her man from the younger wife. She also loved this tortoiseshell cat and her man. This is one lonely lady that wants something back into her life. Fukuko his current wife has to find her place with him in there married life and somehow keep Shozo and keep him happy even if this means he gets to keep his cat! There is all of human life here love, loneliness, marriage, divorce and one man and his cat. This is a recent reissue from Daunt books and shows why it is good to bring lesser works by great writer back especially when like this they have a certain timeless feel to them. I haven’t read enough by him to say if this is the best entry book but I read it in a night and it brought a smile to my face and made me think of Winston and Merlin my two ex-pet dogs.

Winstons books a few old favourites and an English classic

I haven’t done a new book post for a while so I will bring some recent purchases and a couple of review books.First two for review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First up is the latest translation from French writer Antoine Laurain. Smoking kills is the tale of Fabrice a headhunter in France that is trying to give up smoking in the wake of a ban on smoking at work. As an ex-smoker I will find this fun and I have reviewed the four other books by Antoine Laurain in recent years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next from Canadian publisher is the second book they have been published by them from Eric Dupont Like life in the court of Marane this is a complex book that weaves tales from the last century. He has been called the Quebec Marquez. I read his debut in English and am looking forward to this one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now a couple of books from the Yale University series and A Margellos world republic of letters. This is the only novel of the great Polish writer Czeslaw Milosz he won the Nobel prize and is maybe fading out of sight a bit he was a lit critic that struggled with the decadent world of the west which is a theme in this novel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another from them is this novel by French writer Hedi Kaddour set in the Tunisia of 1920’s following a group they  have an influence over the local society a mixture of French, Arabs and Americans present a clash of cultures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now I had ordered this at the library but it seems to have got lost in the system so when I spent a while ago on some books from Waterstones and got a free ten-pound voucher. I decided I would get this book as I only have a couple of the Man Booker list to read this is a mystery built out of the death of French writer Roland Barthes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No don’t fall back in Horror but I am on Holiday in April down In Devon with family. I couldn’t think of which books to choose so decide to read a British classic and this is the one that I decided on as its length means I will probably not need to take any other books. But I more than likely will buy some whilst on holiday.

 

 

The Vatican Cellars by Andre Gide

9781908313690

The Vatican Cellars by Andre Gide 

French fiction 

Original title – Les caves du Vatican 

Translator – Julian Evans

Source  – review copy 

 

FBI Team Leader: It’s an interesting setup, Mr. Ross. It is the oldest confidence game on the books. The Spanish Prisoner. Fellow says him and his sister, wealthy refugees, left a fortune in the home country. He got out, girl and the money stuck in Spain. Here is her most beautiful portrait. And he needs money to get her and the fortune out. Man who supplies the money gets the fortune and the girl. Oldest con in the world

From the film spanish prisoner by David mamet  from imdb 

I have long been a fan of Gallic books ,they publish a wide range of books from France from crime  to lit fiction in translation ,so there discussion to start doing some classic French writers is great and where better to start than with Andre Gide ,one of the most well-known names in 20th century French literature .Born in Normandy he grew up in isolation really ,he started writing at age 21 .He is best known for his books Strait is the gate and the Immortalist , this book came out a few years after that just on the outbreak of world war one .Gide influence the next generation of French writers Camus and Satre in particular .

In 1890 , in the papal reign of Leo XIII , the reputation of DR X—- , a specialist in rheumatic diseases , persuaded Anthime Armand-Dubois , Freemason , to travel to Rome .

“What?” his brother-in-law , Julius de barglioul exclaimed “You’re going all the way to Rome to get your body look after ! I hope that when you get there you’ll realise how much sicker your soul is !”

One family heads to Rome .

 

Rhe Vatican cellars is the tale of French upper class society falling victim to a band of Con men called the Millipede .The story follows three families Armand-Dubois family live in Italy Anthime has recently convert to become a Christian after he has a miracle cure ,meanwhile in Paris His wife sister  Marguerite and her husband Julius sister  ,he has recently written  a book and are movers in the Literary world of Paris , the third family Amedee who is Julius sister anyway these three families end up as a target for the millipede who want them each to give them 20,000 francs as they have 140,000 to help free the real Pope Leo XIII as they make them believe that the Pope there now is a fake Pope .Along the way the is some sex and comic turns .

“To have lost a pope is a frightful thing ,Madame ,there is no doubt about it . But even more frightful is a false pope ! Because to conceal its crime – what I am saying  – to inveige the church into pulling itself apart and fatally weaken itself ,in place of Leo XIII the lodge has installed on the papal throne who knows what puppet of the Quirinal .

The crumbs of the fake pope and why it happened are sowed .

Now this book when it arrived I knew the plot somewhat as it is a classic Scam , called the Spanish prisoner ,where the dupe is lead to believe that some one has been change and replaced with a double or variations on that theme .I would suggest if you like to see a modern version of the scam watch the David Mamet film Spanish prisoner (a very underrated film ) .So this book has been out print for 25 years is a good choice for a reissue and new translation .For me yes it has a strong theme of god and the church ,but also at points is quite brilliantly blackly comic ,I think one of the reason it hasn’t been popular is the plot is at times quite drifting and it is easy to lose where you are ,a few times I had to turn back a couple of pages and check I had it right Julian Evans is very good with older books I am halfway through his translation of Foundling boy another book from Gallic books I am reading .I had read Gide once before about 20 years ago  and have  couple on my shelves to read ,I think it may be a bit less time between his books this time .

Have you read Gide ?

In the Dutch Mountains by Cees Nooteboom

in the dutch mountains

In the Dutch Mountains by Cees Nooteboom

Dutch fiction

Translator –  Adriene Dixon

Original title In Nederland

Source review Copy

Well I’ve cover his short stories before now and Also have an Interview with Cees Noooteboom  here on the blog ,he is the best known living Dutch writer and someone frequently mention for a Nobel Literature prize .This book is a reissue of his   1984 Novel and this one book is probably the  most perfect piece of writing I have ever read ,but also shows the Plaudits given to Nooteboom are due .This is one of two books Maclehose have reissued the other being Rituals which I hope to read soon .I would also suggest reading the Intro by Alberto Manguel .

I am a foreigner ,but I still remember it all ,and I don’t intend to keep quiet about it .My name is Alfonso Tiburon de Mnedoza .I am inspector of roads in the province of Zaragoza ,part of the ancient kingdom of Aragon ,in spain .In my spare time I write book .As a student I spent some years in Delft on a scholarship to study road and bridge building ,and I might as well say at once that the nortern Netherlands have always inspired me with fear ,a Fear that demands a capital letter .

He was touch by his time in Holland .

In the Dutch mountain is The story of a writer retelling a classic fairy tale with a new setting .The writer is a Spaniard Alfonso Tiburon de Mendoza ,he works in the Zaragoza region of spain as a road inspector ,he is a failed man ,he has been writing ,but has never sold many copies of his book but every week he goes to a schoolroom and sits behind a kids desks and writes ,the story we join him on  his   retelling of the Hans Christian Anderson story the Snow Queen ,he has alter the name of the two main child characters too Kai and Luicia they are circus kids  the setting is now in Holland  the mountains of Southern Holland  , where Alfonso  spent some time years ago ,as we follow the story we also follow a bit of Alfonso life as we see the kids revisit  the fairy tale of  the snow queen as through the eyes of Alfonso .

Camino ,carretera, way ,street,road .It has always intrigued me that in Dutch the word weg ,way also means absent .In Spanish el camino is not only the road but also Journey .

I love how words can have dual means elsewhere myself .

This is what reading books in translation is about for me discovery and different approaches , I ve read books before about writers ,and them taking part in the writing process .But none have touched the mark as well as this one did  he really caught the whole process .Alfonso is the perfect embodiment of the failed writer, he has it all in his head but seems to have failed over time  in conveying it in what he writes ,through him we see how he is using a classic tale to try to spark his own writing but also use his own life to add to the fairy tale .A short book 150 pages it seems much longer (a cliché I know but its hard to say anything else its a real gem ) .I have books I know will stick with me for the rest of my life after I have read them for example rings of Saturn by W G  Sebald or Wonder by Hugo Claus , Now I ll be adding this book to that list .Nooteboom also tackles what a fairy tale is a Alfonso takes apart a classic tale and rebuilds it in his own version we get an insight into what makes a great fairy tale and that is the parts of it not the story more what the story in its parts tell you .

Have you read this book ?

What was the last book you read that you knew was going to stick with you ?

Nada by Carmen Laforet

Nada by Carmen Laforet

Spanish fiction

Translator Edith Grossman

Carmen Laforet is one of the great writers of modern Spanish fiction this was her début novel .Born in Barcelona in her early days she moved to Canary islands ,returning to Barcelona at 18 to study and she stayed with family .In 1944 penned this novel aged just 23 .She went on to writer a number of other novels but this her début is probably the best known and loved .she died in 2004 aged 83 .In spain the phrase Después de Nada is used a lot and came from her book .

So Nada (meaning nothing in spanish ) ,Follows Andrea a poor  orphan 18-year-old as she travel from the countryside to spend time with her family in the Catalan capital Barcelona ,she hasn’t seen them for years but knows they used to be well to do when she was young .Her  hope  is to study literature .So we see her arrive in the dead of night and enter the household of her Grandmother .This household with her aunties and uncles living there as well ,is a strange one to say the least .We see how she changes from a shy country girl into a modern woman .The family she expected  them to be well off but because the civil war they are broke .Reduced to living in a small room in the Calle de Airbau .They are all in there with the piano and  the uncle loves to play it .Andrea is shocked by how her family are living post civil war  .Another aunt runs away to join a cult ,her uncle Roman commits suicide .Andrea makes friends at university .We also glimpse the broken city of Barcelona that is trying to pick itself up off the floor after the civil war with the heart of the city a war-torn place .Jo Labanyi in her very short intro to Spanish fiction says she was shocked that due to the uncle Roman suicide as in 1945 when the book came out it was still illegal in Spain .Plus it isn’t very Franco friendly

In front of me was a foyer illuminated by a single weak light bulb in one of the arms of the magnificent lamp,dirty with cobwebs ,that hung from the ceiling .a dark background of articles of furniture piled one on top of the other as if the household were in the middle of moving .And in the foreground the black -white blotch of a decrepit little old woman in a nightgown ,a shawl thrown around her shoulder ,I wanted to believe I’d come to the wrong flat ,but good-natured old woman wore a smile of such sweet kindness that I was certain she was my grandmother .

Andrea entering her families home in Barcelona .

Now the book is told completely in first person narrative we see Andrea life through her eyes ,we see her life change was she interacts family ,they all have their problems and in a way this gives Andrea the strength to become a strong women over the year she spent in the house .It’s hard to pull of first person narrative with out it feel self-indulgent which this never does .I feel the strength of this book is that it is probably quite near to the writers own life she went to Barcelona spend time with her family .She was a very young woman at the time she wrote this and that is the made a lot of in reviews I read after I read the book .I did worry some times the feeling of a writer being a L’Enfant Terrible l,this is the feeling about Carmen Laforet can be of putting but this is a neatly written book of a young girls journey into womanhood and naturally this translation which is the third time into English works ,it should it is from Edith Grossman regarded by many as the finest translator from Spanish in the late 20th century .Andrea is a wonderful creation her life was a delight to read I thoroughly enjoyed the book .The book seems to be maybe an early example of the tremedismo style of Spanish literature that dealt with the civil and post civil war period championed by writers such as Cela

Have you read this book ?

View of dawn in the Tropics by G. Cabrera Infante

View of dawn in the Tropics by G Cabrera Infante

Cuban Fiction

Translated by Suzanne Jill Levine

Guillermo Cabrera Infante is probably the find of this reader ever since I read three trapped tigers .I d been wanting to try another of his books .He grew up in cuba his parents were militant communists and when he was seven spent time in prison on the canary islands they returned to Havana when he was 12 .He started writing in the fifties and fell foul of the Batista regime being censored ,He initially supported the Castro regime and was appointed to the national council of culture when Castro came to power ,but was later a critic of the regime and was sent to Belgium by castro then via spain finally settled in Exile in London .So to view of dawn in the tropics which was another Sheffield find from a couple of months ago .

The island came out of the sea like a venus land :out of the foam constantly beautiful .But there were more islands .in the beginning they were solitary islands .

The opening of View of ..

So view dawn in the tropics is an experimental novel ,a collection of roughly a hundred pen picture or vignettes which ever takes your fancy .These little gems tell the story of his homeland Cuba from the first Time the Spanish reached it in 1492 ,through the death of the native Indian tribes ,the slave trade ,uprisings of  the slaves . the war with America ,The cuban Jazz age ,the Batista regime and the finally the Castro led revolution ..So we see the Tobacco trade and haunting snippets of how the white owners treated the Black slaves when they tried a mutiny by hang corpses from trees as a warning to all the over slaves not to revolt .Then we later see the black dandy’s dressed in all there splendour in the 1930 as the Jazz age and america’s influence gripped the island some these little snippets remind me of Infante’s other book three trapped tigers that is set during the same  time and had a real Cuban jazz  beat to its writing .Then first the hope of Castro  coming to power and then the despair of castro .

Dawn came as always .The moon was hidden early and venus first became more luminous and then paler,fainter.The land breeze had stopped .but it was cooler than it had been at sunset.

I choose this as it echo the opening and came nearer the end of the book .

This book is a classic piece of modernist experimental  fiction ,hard to call a novel not a history really ,I feel maybe as I know he was a fan of Joyce (he translated Dubliners into Spanish )it maybe owes something to Ulysses as this is a collection of micro episodes like Ulysses is .Two other books that  I was reminded of was Gunter Grass my century, that I feel is influenced by  this  book as grass told german history in the twentieth century also through  a hundred vignettes   by Grass .The other  book I was reminded of mainly because I’d  read it earlier this month is HHHH by Laurent Binet  another book that style wise use small vignettes but not with the power of the writing  Infante does in view of  .I find it hard to believe this guy isn’t better known  in the english speaking world he should be up next to Fuentes and Marquez .For his use of language is simply breath-taking he seems to make clever puns even work in translation  ,rhythmic passages always seem to come with that cuban jazz beat behind them . But all that without being over bloated .Because every one of these vignettes ,feels like a gemstone that has been cut and polished until the shine and glitter .So why isn’t someone reissuing his cannon ,three trapped tigers was reissued in 2005 but with a terrible cover(sorry to mention covers again but it is a matter that bothers me great books with bad cover is worse than bad books with good covers to me ) well moan over .So hope for the second time I get someone to try this writer he is the most refreshing writer I ve read this book is so different to three trapped tigers and I think that is the mark of a master able to change writing style from book to book and to keep it readable .

Have you read Infante ? if so do you agree with me ?

What is your favourite Cuban novel ?

Welcome to Spanish Lit Month

Well it’s here July  tomorrow and I’m excited to see what books every one has chosen but if your still struggling for a book to read for Spanish language lit month ,I ve a few tips here to help my co host richard has done two posts of book lists .the first has 200 books that have been picked on various lists  the second had a further list of 100 plus books from classic to the modern age from spain and latin america .

Right another great port of call is the complete review Michael the guy behind complete review has many more reviews of spanish fiction here  and Latin american fiction here .Mostly modern but it has best selection of Latin american fiction I ve seen .

The site for new Spanish books available to be translated is a great site to see what is happening in Spanish .Nick Caistor and Stefan Tobler advise on here two  people I know are trustworthy .

Then I ll give you five to read from my blog

1.Don Quixote –

US EDITION DON QUIXOTE

This is the head water of all modern european fiction we may think use in the english speaking world got the ball rolling on the novel no its  this book has it all ,meta fiction ,playful story lines ,History and oh the mad don and his faithful friend .

2 Three trapped tiger G Cabrera Infante

The cuban Ulysses the call it but actually it is very different it has a very cuban feel you can feel a jazz beat as your read about a day in Havana just before the revolution .A lost classic this one .

3 I the supreme by Augusto Roa Bastos

Another classic of latin american fiction ,the story of a 19th century dictator in latin america echos of the present in the past image ,controlling the media and writing your own history still go on in the present day

4 Kamchatka by Marcelo Figueras

One of my favourite books of recent years ,the dirty war seen through a young boys eyes .It is touching and entertaining  and with a believable child narrator .

5 Exiled from almost everywhere by Juan Goytisolo

He is the wonderful master of spanish fiction I ve read a few but this only one since I ve blog a wonderfully wacky tale that maybe needs a wider audience  . As does Juan he may win the Nobel one day soon and if you’ve not read him you’ll kick your self .

Oh and needless to say Borges is a must read anything by him is going make your reading life a little brighter .

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