A Poison Apple by Michel Laub

 

 

A Poison Apple by Michel Laub

Brazilian fiction

Original title –  A maçã envenenada

Translator – Daniel Hahn

Source – Library copy

I’m looking back at some of the books I have missed in translation over the last year and this was one of them. I read Michel Laub first book translated into English the Diary of the fall when it came out a couple of years ago. He has written books since the late nineties has published five novels so far. He won the Brasilia book prize for the diary of the fall. I also won the Wingate prize for translation.

I haven’t had many relationships between 1993 and today, at least not the long ones that end up serving as a point of comparison for the others. It’s as though the night I met Valeria was the starting benchmark, and from the chance ocurrence of my arriving at her house and seeing the Kurt Cobain poster and ger commenting that her biggest dream ever was tp see a nirvana show, a wave of premonition arose that contaminated all the conversations and fights and getting-back togethers and break ups I would have over two decades.

One moment he sees to blame for the future and the past of his relationships.

I remember the Butthole surfers lyric it is better to regret something you have done than regret something you haven’t done. well, Gibby Haynes wrote those lines on their Locust abortion technician album. He could have meant the guy of this story our Narrator is looking back to a point twenty years earlier. He was in his first serious relationship with a girl called Valeria.She is a singer and the woman that he lost his cherry with!!  He was in the middle of his compulsory military service. This was 1993 He had got them tickets to what would turn out to be the only show by Nirvana in Brazil.So our narrator got held up so let his best friend take his beloved Valeria to the concert. Not knowing that they would fall for each other at the concert. He is now recalling the events. He blames this one moment for not being able to get to the concert for his problems but also looks back at what happened to Kurt after this gig. As within in 18 months he had himself died and left us with the words of another great singer Neil youngs words Its better to burn out than fade away. Has one missed concert been the downfall or had he made the concert would his life had run different, had he been more Gibby and runoff from the CPOR training in Porto Alegre and gone to the concert. He also now a journalist in the present is interviewing a woman that hid in a bathroom with several other women during the Massacres in Rwanda. Her story is marked in his memory as well as his time with Valerie.

One explanation for why I was in London in the week Immaculee went into the bathroomand Kurt Cobain killed himself: a car accident I had had the year before. I crossed protasio Alves, at a traffic light opposite the bus lane, and a fire engineinto the door by my seat. I spent the night in the emergency clinc. They did tests and put a catheter in urethra.All theough the early hours I heard the groans from the other beds, and I was forbidden from drinking any water because they were considering surgery for first thing in the morning.

I like this as it had an echo to Kurt coming out in a hospital gown on reading where he sound like he was groaning in pain  at times during that performance.

 

This is an interesting book that has a sentimental look at a band that the writer must be a fan of to go into the depth he has with the history of the band and what happened after the Brazil gig. even the title is a quote both of a biblical nature it was Eve eating the apple that got Adam and Eve expelled after a snake told them too. It is also a Kurt Cobain line from the song Drain you about an unrequited love someone, Kurt, like but didn’t like him. Then add to it the side story of massacres and loss in Rwanda almost showing how a missed concert in the big scheme of things maybe isn’t important but maybe is !!I enjoyed this I too am a fan of Nirvana and also often wonder if certain moments in one’s life are those turning points we don’t know are turning points.

 

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A general theory of Oblivion by Jose Eduardo Agualusa

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A general theory of Oblivion by Jose Eduardo Agualusa

Angolan fiction

Original title – Teoria Geral do Esquecimento

Translator – Daniel Hahn

Source – copy from translator

I was lucky that Daniel saw I was after this when it was mentioned on the longlist for the Man booker international prize. He said he had a spare copy of the us edition (extra bonus as it is an archipelago books copy so very pretty as well ) . I had looked for this on ,my library system just before the man booker but they hadn’t a copy as the book of chameleon by Jose Eduardo Agualusa an earlier book by him had won the prize and also been one I had really enjoyed. Jose Eduardo Agualusa  is not just a writer,  he has a radio show dedicate to African song and poetry and also publish books from around the Portuguese speaking world .

Ludo opened the box. Inside, looking fearfully at her, she found a little white newborn puppy.

“He’s a male. A German shepherd ” Orlando explained. “They grow quickly. This one’s an albino, rather unusual. He shouldn’t get too much sun. What are you going to call him ?”

Ludo didn’t hesitate

“Phantom!”

“Phantom?”

Orlando shrugged his bony shoulders

“Very well. Then Phantom he shall be ”

Ludo gets her dog. Now the strange thing is my Mum has a dog his name is also Phantom he is a greyhound thou I love the way books and real life cross sometimes.

A general theory of Oblivion follows one woman story but not just that the story of her home and homeland post freedom Ludo a woman decides on the eve of Angola becoming a free country to brick herself away from the outside world into her apartment. What follows is a collection of her life and what she glimpses from behind the walls . As she faces life through her collection of books her albino German shepherd dog, also her memories of a man who might have been the one Orlando and the radio the only link to the world apart from the glimpse and chance encounter she has over a number of year like a burglar that she encounters. The book is a wonderful mix of life and dramas real and imagine worlds and how someone avoids madness just in more than thirty years apart from the real world.

The days slide by as if they were liquid. I have no more notebooks to write in. I have no more pens either. I write on the walls, with pieces of charcoal, brief lines.

I save on food, on water, and on adjectives.

I think about Orlando. I hated him, at first. Then I began to see his appeal. He could be very seductive. One man and two women under the same roof- a dangerous combination.

A  short piece this captures almost her being on the edge of madness in her words as she remembers the past and Orlando .

From what I have read I think this novel is actually based on the real life person . Her notebooks Diaries and poems that where all collected after she died after spending 28 years cut off from the world. It seems Jose was given access to this body of work initially to write a radio play. That is odd as I felt when I finished this book  the small pieces that make this book up are almost like turning a radio dial through the years that Ludo had spent apart but also like gems in the dirt of african history waiting to be unearthed. I can see the mix of styles in this book can put the reader off but to me they drew me in as we see Ludo and her world and how her world starts to slowly fall apart from the lose of her dog, to having to burn her books and then the end. But what we also see through these piece is a glimpse of the past and present in Angola using both the real world and a mythical world.  This book shows why we maybe should be trying to get more books out of the Lusophone world!

Have you read any of the other books By Jose ?

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