Seeing red by Lina Meruane

Image result for lina meruane seeing red

 

Seeing red by Lina Meruane

Chilean fiction

Original title –Sangre en el ojo

Translator – Megan Mcdowell

Source – review copy

This is another book that deep Vellum brought out but I never got to the e-book, so I was pleased when I was sent a copy from Atlantic books.It shows the talent that is coming from Latin America also the talented female writers. This ticks two boxes one from Spanish lit month and the other for  Woman translation month. As I say there seems to be a number of great Latin American writers and like most of them Lina Meruane is based in New York where she got a degree in Latin American literature, which she now teaches. She has written four novels this is her first to be translated into English.

But no , it was no fire i was seeing, it was blood spilling outminside my eye. The most shockingly beautiful blood I have ever seen.The most outrageous.The most terrifying.The blood gushed, but only I could see it.With absolute clarityI watched as it thickened, I saw rhe pressure rise, I watched as I got dizzy, I saw my stomach turn, saw that I was starting to retch, and even s.I didn’t straighten up or move an inch, didn’t even try to breathe while I watched the show. Because that was the last thing I would see, that night though that eye: a deep, black blood

As the Haemorrage is happening described by Lucina.

This is a novel that is partly based on the writers own experience. Like Lucina in the book Lina has also experienced what it is like to lose her sight. The book follows Lucina a young Chilean writer, who has come to New York like many writers from Latin America, the early part follows her when knows she has a condition that means some point, she may lose her sight. So when it happens it is still a shock to her. But also to her boyfriend who becomes her eyes Ignacio becomes her eyes as we see her become  familiar with using her other senses more as the world one familiar become very alien to her and even her most personal relationship has to readjust to make way for her blindness, but also the change it has made for Lucina as a person. Someone more connected to her emotions than she was before with more feeling and in a strange way seeing the world more without sight than she ever did with sight.

Ignacio is still in the airport, a disconcerted frown on his face. Ignacio standing under the glowing screen. Bepatures.Arrivals.His glasses glint over his now-empty eyes.Its an aged and ruined Ignacio. An Ignacio cracked like an old statue on the verge of collapse. His shirt with sleeves rolled up and his linen pants utterly tattered and his dull bronze shoes fixed to the floor. Centuroieshave passed I think, and there he remains covered by ash or dust of my depature,clutching the anxious kiss I blew to him.

A man broken in a way by caring and seeing her slipping away in a way .

Now blindness has been tackled at various times in Literature, Saramago Blindness where everyone goes blind, but it maybe captures the anger we feel her in Meruane words. The Day of the triffids shows the sheer panic one can feel when one lose the sight. But this is also a story of how a person adapts completely. Having worked many years ago with Older blind people, I get the stoic nature of Lucina, but also the underlying anger at times. A wonderfully observed book of snatch dreams and new turns in a life that has been part of the writer’s own story shows the current power of female writers from Latin America or as Bolano said of her one of the one or two greats on the new generation of  Chilean writers who promise to have it all. Great words about her.

 

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Before by Carmen Boullosa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before by Carmen Boullosa

Mexican fiction

Original title – Antes

Translator – Peter Bush

Source – Personal copy

So now on to Mexico in this years Spanish lit month and the debut novel from Carmen Boullosa which came out in 1989.Carmen Boullosa is both a poet and novelist, she has written 17 novels so far and there is seven of those available in English translation. Two of which including this is from Deep Vellum, I have reviewed ebooks from them but have fallen out of love with ebooks and haven’t reviewed them. So as I have had a little extra money the last few months I have bought paper copies of their books to read.

One day in the middle of break. Maria Enela(that was her name, was or that’s what I rememember, and will stick with Enela) invited me into the hencoop with the. There were no hens or remains of hens. I suspected it was one of the nuns projects thay hadn’t taken root .. an abandoned building, clean for some reqason, dark and silent. I went in with her . Then the steps came close and she asked me “What sare those steps?”

“What do you think ?”I replied, nothing gto worry..”

“You know what I’m talking about,” she said “you know very well. I’m being followed … They old me to ask you

The otherworldlyness of the book, is that ghosts.

Before is told in the voice of a small girl, we see here looking back on her puberty a right of passage as she became a woman. Her sisters and her play with simple white pebbles together in the book make fantasy countries in lines with the stones but then they disappear. Then trying to find out which Turtle was in the turtle shop they had one day the story moves at times into almost a ghost story as strange things happen around the young girl things she has trouble explain or understanding .The story is a fragmented story as thou from a child time is flipped in place and events run against each other in times. There is the mother but the father is the man in the dark is he there or has he gone or died.A book that shows how frightening growing up can be and we see things that maybe or ghost or just fragments of our imaginations as we try to make sense of this world.

The pebbles that I “collected” from the neighbours yard were small, white, and were used by them to decorate the window box adorning the front of their house.

Collecting them was an adventure because they were just beyond our reach and because they were “cultivated” pebbles, “pedigree” pebbles and not stones from the street, so nobody should see us when we got them.

I lived the image of stealing those pebbles we all did something similar as a kid didn’t we !

As I said this is what Mexican writing does so well the short punchy novella from Juan Rulfo with Pedro Paramo which also has a sense of otherness to it written before this novella and a work after by say Yuri Herrera’s signs preceding the end which has a ghostly feel to the text and came out after this book. I also saw a comparison with Guadalupe Nettel’s work  that also touches on times on growing up. There is a style to Boulosa writing that is gripping to the reader given the great translation from Peter Bush. The girl’s voice has a real feel of a young woman looking back and the way you miss as a child the mundane in life and also the way we look at others and events in those years.A tumbling collection of remembered thoughts. Have you read any of her books?

Winstonsdad’s Books of the year

Well it was a busy reading year if not reviewing year at winstonsdad I managed to read 128 books but as said yesterday managed to review a far fewer books so the ones I have chosen I have reviewed as well barring one .All the books this year are translations I have picked twelve in no particular order .

 

Farewell cowboy by Olja Savicevic – I met Olja this year her book follows a sister return to her home town in former Yugoslavia to find out what happened to him. We see how much the years she was away have effect her hometown and those she left behind.

Bridge over the Drina by Ivo Drina – Yugoslavia again and a vital crossing in the region is used as the cornerstone of a collection of stories through time. I found this was so forward-looking as the simmering undertensions that later erupted into the wars of the Balkans.

 

My documents by Alejandro Zambra – I had read his novels short books that lead me to think he would be a great short story writer. A collection that follows someones first days on a computer to footballing moments remembered from Chile’s past .

What became of the white savage by Francoise Garde – A lost gem of this year this prize winning french novel based on the real life tale of a french sailor who went native in the 18th century after his ship sank .What happens when you return to the world you left behind many years ago.

Street of thieves by Mathias Enard – A boys journey to manhood from Algeria to Europe as we see how he has to change to survive in the modern world .From the buds of the Arab spring to the wilting flowers of life on the streets of Barcelona .

Ventoux by Bert Wagendorp – Four friends go back to the great tour de France climb of Ventoux after twenty years and the loss of a friend on an earlier trip to the region. Funny and dark in places, I can’t wait to see the film of this one.

Fall of man in wimslow  by David Lagercrantz – The death of Alan Turing told by the detective investigating his death. The book before he took on the Milenium series .First of two books I connect with due to location in the top ten.

 

20150828_151617The illogic of Kassel by Enrique Vila- Matas – The story of when Enrique was asked to be an art piece sat in a chinese window in the city of Kassel for the Documenta. A city I spent time in years ago another connection to my own life .

 

The egghead republic by Arno Schimdt – I had long want to try Schimdt and strangely found an edition in my library system as a taster before his huge opus Zettels dreams is due out in English this year .This followed a reports trip to a strangely floating city of scientist .

Tram 83 FINAL FC

Tram 83 by Fiston Mwanza Mujilla – A city told through the eyes of two friends as civil war rages and diamonds, sex , people are sold nightly at the night club Tram 83 .A vibrant trip to Congo DR in a great debut novel .

 

Til kingdom comes by Andrej Nikoladis – I have met Andrej twice now this is the third book from him and also the one that features events of the first day I met him when we saw a man being photograph in Red lion square the home of Istros books. Part of the tale of a man uncovering the truth behind his parents .

 

Oh and the on I haven’t reviewed or finished –

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The epic Zibaldone by Gicamo Leopardi the notebooks of the Italian poet as he takes you through his thoughts of what he reads , thinks and every thing in his life from the origins of myths to Italian .I have been sipping this all year round. I will be reviewing this when I finish this masterpiece just say it is maybe the greatest book of its time.

 

So that is it ask me tomorrow it would be twelve  different books There have been some great  books this year .

 

Tram 83 by Fiston Mwanza Mujila

Tram 83 FINAL FC

I featured this in my cover shot post a couple of weeks ago of Tram 83  and said then I had this on my wish list since the US publisher Deep Vellum had brought this book out in the US> I was contact by Jazz the publicist for the uk publisher Jacaranda books a great new UK publisher doing a great selection of African books. Anyway what first caught my eye about this book was the quote this is a masterpiece by Alain Mabanckou, usually I don’t take much notice of quotes on cover but Alain Mabanckou has long been a favourite of  this blogger.

I was fortunate enough to read some of Fiston Mwanza Mujila’s poetry a few years back. I didn’t know at the time he was busy writing a novel, or for that matter the degree to which I would be moved by his new work and how each page would bring me so much joy. When I turned the last page I exclaimed: “This is a mastepiece”

From the forward by Alain Mabanckou

Tram 83 is maybe to me the book that seems to be what must be the chaos of post war DR Congo, well I say post war actually DR Congo or Zaire as it used to be called has been at war for most of the last half century and has had various names. What Fiston Mwanza Mujilla has captured here is what are the people who stay with in this chaos, why would you stay ? Well with the two main characters of this book Luicen the honest writer observing the world he lives in and his friend the darker survivor Requiem  who has had to learn to steal and trick to get by in this world. I was so remind in this two of the classic dickens pairing of Oliver twist and the Artful dodger, there is no Fagin in this story unless we see Tram 83 and all its sins as a metaphoric Fagin.

Tram 83 was one of the most popular restaurants and hooker bars, its renown stretching beyond the city-states borders.”see tram 83 and die,” was the refrain of the tourist who blew into town from the four corners of the globe to conduct their business during the day they wandered zombie-like through the mining concessions they owned by the dozen, and at night ended up in Tram 83 to refresh their memory. This gave the place every appearence of true theater, if not a massive circus. Here’s the kind of thing you might hear as background noise:

“I want ti massage you by way of foreplay, then slowly suck you off,suck your whole body,suckyou till my mouth runs dry”

I feel this paints a great picture of Tram 83 and the people who use and work there.

Tram 83 the heart of this book is one of those ramshackle clubs, I was reminded of the club Michael Palin visit a club in pole to pole a ramshackle place full of the city, like this club The club reflects the needs of the men in a way of this world loose women, easy drink and drugs. Also the way these people are trying to tear apart the world outside their door that is the sheer wealth of minerals that are available we often hear the terms Conflict or blood diamonds but now we see the real cost of ripping the heart of Africa out. What fills the vacuum of a lawless world where Police and state have failed well the characters in this book and who else well are two lead characters.

There are cities which don’t need literature: they are literature. They files past, chest thrust out, head on their shoulders. They are proud and full of confidence despite the garbage bags they cart around. The city-state, an example among so many others – she pulsated with literature.

“I love you, baby”

“I don’t like foreplay, it kills the pleasure ”

“Do you have the time ?”

The city-state was written by her gigolos,her baby chicks, her diggers, her four star whore house, her dissident rebels ready to imprison you,her prospectors,her semi-tourist.Lucien rushwed into the nnight, his imitation-leather bag slung across his body.

I loved this chapter opening about the city of Lubumbashi the city state setting of the book .

The book has a poetic tone, I search for info about Fiston and found out he was a poet before he wrote this his first novel. The style of writing reminds me of how you may rift on styles there is many mentions of Jazz on the cover and in reviews, but for me this is more what great hip hop does and that is rift on everything the heart of Congo music is Soukous, those string lead rifts of singers like Pape Wemba, I picture the kids of Fiston generations drawing on this to make it the heart of their hip hop and maybe Fiston is drawing on this himself the soulful voice of Soukos through modern artist like Werrason has become a voice of modern DR Congo. I also have never fully got Jazz.

DR congo fiction

Translator – Roland Glasser

Source – Review copy

Have you a favourite African book set during a civil war ?

 

What’s going on in the world of translation !

Well it’s been a while since I round-up some Gems and news I’ve come across in the world of translation .So after a week away from the blog it seemed a nice way to ease myself back into the old routine .First of is one of two new publishers that have crossed my path in recent times A publishing house called Deep Vellum ,set in Texas ,they have three title coming soon I believe ,the first is a collection of short stories from Mikhail Shishkin ,I shall be reviewing The light and the dark by him soon and from that could see his short stories being quite tasty pieces ,Sergio Pitol the Mexican writer and translator is the second writer ,he has won the prestigious Cervantes prize in the past .Lastly they are publishing A member of the Oulipo group of writers Anne Garreta ,she was first member  to be  born and chosen to join the group after it was founded ,She has won the Prix Médicis in 2002 for her book not a day

the_missing_year

Next up is a remind I think but their first book is due very soon and it is the New York based New vessel Press the first book is The Missing Year of Juan Salvatierra by Pedro Mairal a man who was a mute spend six decades paint the history of his village on the shores facing Uruguay ,when his sons die they find these scrolls .This reminds me rather of the story of the outsider art of the American Henry Darger who spent year writing an epic saga called the Vivian girls .The book is due out as an Ebook on the 15th July one for the Dairy I think !!.

This week saws the winner of the Oxford Weidenfield Translation prize announced –

Tess Lewis for Lukas Bärfuss, One Hundred Days (Granta)
Louise B. Popkin for Mario Benedetti, Witness (White Pine Press)
Sam Taylor for Laurent Binet, HHhH (Harvill Secker)
Frank Wynne for Alonso Cueto, The Blue Hour (Heinemann)
Philip Boehm for Herta Müller, The Hunger Angel (Portobello)
Mike Mitchell for Jean-Pierre Ohl, The Lairds of Cromarty (Dedalus)

hunger angel

The winner  was The Hunger Angel by Herta Muller  here is my Review  .I may also draw your attention to another book from the shortlist  ,here is My review of The Blue Hour ,A book overlooked I feel as it is better than the more well-known Red April also set in Peru .

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Also a reminder for the forthcoming Thomas Bernhard week .I have a specially commissioned  piece this Thursday that I have been lucky to get from another writer about his love of Thomas Bernhard .

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