One million cows by Manuel Rivas

ONE MILLION COWS

One million cows by Manuel Rivas

Spanish Galican fiction

Original title -un millon de vacas

Translator – Jonathan Dunne

Source – review copy

I received the first for books from a small publisher Small station press , the press was set up by the translator of this book. There aim was to bring the best of Galican fiction to English for the first time . I reviewed Polaroid by the same press as well last year. I saved this for this spanish lit month as it is by one of my all time favourite Spanish writers |Manuel Rivas I have reviewed two of his novels all is silence and the carpenters pencil both of which were translator by Jonathan. This is a collection of short stories from early in the career of this writer.

“Did you see that guy ?” asked Rita. “He smells bad.”.In this day and age , still wearing a corduroy jacket,” remarked pachi. “He’s covered in dandruff,” observed Virxinia. Raul had a doubt “Does he not talk, or is he dumb?””That Girl complained Marije , no longer knows what to do to surprise us. First , she hooks up with an Arab and now she brings along a country bumpkin. Do you think she’s taken him to bed yet ?

A stranger appears with dandruff on his jacket or is it fish scales ?

One million cows is a selection of 18 stories with setting in modern-day Galica in the 1980’s . A time when spain had just shaken of the shackles of the Franco years. The stories range from a schoolgirl recounting her last day at school her favourite art teacher. A man returns from England in another. Then there is how we get the title when it is reported on a news piece that there is a million cows living in farms in Galicia. My favourite piece was a comic story of a man given the job of answering the phones at an army base , when he receives a call  from a woman asking for Jose to be let off on leave to come and sort out the cotton fields, but she won’t say which Jose and there is a lot of them do we ever find out which Jose she wants ? Elsewhere a stranger appears in a town covered in fishscales.

Having been assigned to the telephone exchange , i was one of the others, needless to say on that filthy afternoon, from behind the window of the exchange I thanked my lucky stars that I was only half a man . Until a bell rang , a noisy buzzer that warned of an incoming call.

“INfantry barracks, how can I help you ?”

Is Jose There ?”, asked the distant voice of a woman .

“Jose , what Jose ?”

“Jose is that you ? Can you put Jose on the line ?”

“What Jose , madam ? there are lots of Joses here ”

“I wanted Jose to be given leave, it’s for the cotton, you know. For harvesting the cotton

I like this short tale of a call to an Army Barracks .

I always wonder what the less known works of writers are, you often look at a writers Wiki page or interviews with them translated and see books or as in this case short stories that haven’t been translated this is where the small press come in and the ability to fill in the gaps in the cannon of great writers. I am a fan of Rivas he has a real eye of detail in his writing and that is shown here but also i liked the fact he had humour in a few of the stories which is something I discovered about his writing. I also like that fact in this collection of post Franco tales there was no mention of the fact it was post Franco era.

Do you like to reader lesser known works of writers in translation ?

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Polaroid by Suso De Toro

 

POLAROID

Polaroid by Suso De Toro

Spanish (Galician) Fiction

Original title – Polaroid

Translator – Jonathan Dunne

Source – review copy

We were strangers.
We were strangers, for way too long, for way too long,
We were strangers, for way too long.
Violent, violent,
Were strangers.

Get weak all the time, may just pass the time,
Me in my own world, and you there beside,
The gaps are enormous, we stare from each side,
We were strangers for way too long.

I remember nothing by Joy division Ian Curtis summed up the world around him ,like Suso De Toro does in this book .

I was contact after a comment on Tony’s post earlier this month for the book the One million crows by Manuel Rivas a writer that I have reviewed myself  twice on the blog . I was contacted by his new publisher who is also his translator Jonathan Dunne who has started a new small press celebrating all Galician fiction , Small Stations is based in Bulgaria ,this is a wonderful example of how fiction in translation in English is becoming a truly Europe wide enterprise .Now Suso De Toro has written over twenty books in Galician , this was his first Adult book and a sensation when it first came out thirty years ago .he is also a journalist and tv scriptwriter he also won the Spanish national literature prize in 2003 for his book Thirteen chimes . I have included this in spanish lit month as i view any lit from spain as well as spanish fiction in the wider sense so also Basque and like this Galician fiction .

In the centre of the picture is a plump , white-haired old woman dressed in mourning , with a colourful shawl around her shoulders. She staring at the camera with a mile . In front of her , she is holding the shoulders of a dark , little girl in a pink dress ,who is also smiling at the camera ,

(You have to move , it’s a video!) is a short piece about a woman making a video but not moving .

Now I was sent four books by Small station and this jumped to the top of the list when I read the synopsis as it had a mention of Raymond Carver and he is a writer that in pre blogging days , I enjoyed . So this is a collection of short and I would say flash fiction glimpses of ordinary lives and strange historic figures out of context Cain and Abel in modern days . This is a flash of the underbelly of the Galician world porn models criminals and wives poisoning there blind husbands . I loved the jumping in and out of worlds in this collection .One of my favourite was a short paragraph of a women making a video but just stood staring at the video camera .Talking camera the books is splattered with actual polarioids that range from the boring to the gory to glimpses of lives .

A blind man with blond hair and dark glasses sits at a table on the pavement in front of a cafe , holding lottery tickets in one hand and a a white stick in the other , with his head and foot marking the rhythm of a song on the cassette player he has on the table .From time to time the waiter , an overweight , swarthy man with sideburns and a white jacket , appears in the doorway of the cafe and watches the world go by with a bored expression .

A blind man but is he the same man blind man in a later story ?

Now there writer himself described this as inspired by punk . To me I was reminded of those post punk bands in fact at times there is a scene in the film Control where they are recording their debut album with Martin Hanett and he says to the drummer play the drums slower but faster ,this is short fiction that is shorter but longer in that case . He isn’t being clever no this is three chords and the truth in writing  . As for the carver yes it is easy to compare them they both use sparse words but with a full punch behind them .This would been huge thirty years ago at the height of Carvers fame and with the punky feel of the book .

Have you read many books from Galicia  ?

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