Bodies of summer by martin Felipe Castagnet

Bodies of Summer by Martin Felipe Castagnet

Argentinean literature

Original title – Los Cuerpos del Verano

Translator – Frances Riddle

Source – personnel copy

I just had another new talent from Argentina latest book arrive today Rodrigo Fresan The invented part an epic new novel to go along sidfe this slim yet thoughtful novella by Martin Felipe Castagnet shows that they are still producing great writers , this was Castagnet’s debut novel it won for young latin american literature when it came out. He is also the editor of The Buenos Aires review his books have also been translated into french and Hebrew.

When I went through the process of entering into flotation, my body was destroyed. At that time they hadn’t yet figured out how to conserve bodies and burn people into new ones.The technological advances we’ve seen since then have been astonishing. First mothers began to put their children on the waiting lists for new bodies . Just in case they were to die in an accident .Bodies came to be seen as a valuable natural resource .

One can just imagine what happens when this could become a reality not a novella !!

This is set in a distant future , in Argentina where they have managed to perfect capturing in computers the soul of the dying . this is story of Ramiro who has got his family to bring him back to life from the net  and floatation as they call it  , to sort out something from his past. Now the only body his family could find to upload the mind of one of the first souls to be saved on the net is that of a fat over weight middle-aged woman , which leads to a strange feeling in Ramiro as he feels the shape of his new body for the first time  and finds parts missing from it . But also he has n’t seen from the net world how much quicker and darker the world has gone. We also see even thou he has a different body and time has flown Ramiro still has a number of axes to grind. This is a future where the world isn’t limited by bodies anymore.

I still haven’t found my former best friend . I still haven’t discovered what happened to my wife. I can find any of her descendants. Teo doesn’t recognize me. I feel useless in my own home. My desire drives me forward , but I get frustrated when my desire can’t be fulfilled. To think that for decades I missed pain, and now that I’m back I’m incapable of feeling it .

Ramiro struggle to get use to the world he has missed and his new body !!

I am not a huge sci-fi fan but this isn’t Heavy sci-fi it use the future more as a way to question important questions about what our souls are , the body or the mind can the mind leave the body and return. I was reminded in some ways of Cronenberg films this is a dark view of the future where souls drift on the net and sometimes it is hard to tell who is in the body that is facing you .As it is hard to decide where you are as we see in the family his daughter was on the net with him and her brother and his son still lives in the real world.Even when brought back he finds it hard to escape the net Ramiro . This is like a dark side of the old kids tv series where joe of Joe 90 could take the mind of many people to save the day  and be an avatar like the bodies in this book can be used for revenge and death and so much more !!!

 

 

Fever dream by Samanta Schweblin

 

Fever dream by Samanta Schweblin

Argentinean fiction

Original title – , Distancia de rescate

Translator – Megan Mcdowell

Source – Personal copy

Now this was the first book I read after the longlist came out as it was the one we may have called in I feel if it hadn’t made the longlist. Samanta is another from the granta list of the best Spanish language writers under 35 that came out a few years ago , I wish they would do a few more of these books for other languages that list has produced some of the best books I have read over the last few years and Samanta is one of the names of that list I had want to try long before I actually got to this book .

They’re like worms

What kind of worms ?

like worms , all over

It’s the boy who’s talking , murmuring into my ear. I am the one asking questions.

Worms in the body ?

Yes, in the body

Earthworms ?

No, another kind of worms

It’s dark and I can’t see.The sheets are rough, they bunched up under my body. I can’t move , but I am talking .

The opening lines leave the question why is the sheet rough on Amanda is she even alive ?

The english title is maybe more to the point of what this book is the spanish title means rescue distance , which in itself is a question where as the english title is Fever dream and that is just what we have here . Two people in a hospital room the first Amanda she lies waking from a fever or in a fever and beside her is a boy , not her son David he is trying to guide her in his own young way , she talks of worms around her he gets he to try to rec all what exactly happened to get them there .Then earlier Amanda in her dream talks to Carla about her son that fell ill six years earlier Also called David .We also see a bleak land that of Patagonia , this land where the Gauchos still farm like they did years ago but is this also a sign of how the world she lives in has changed recently ? Amanda story is one that has very few answers to us as the reader more questions which even thou this book is only 150 short pages it has me two weeks later think about what it is all about ,

How can it not be ? That’s the story we need to understand

No , that’s not the story, it has nothing to do with the exact moment. Don’t get distracted.

I need to measure the danger, other wise it’s hard to calculate the rescue distance . The same way I surveyed the house and its surroundings when we arrived, now I need to see the green house, understand its gravity .

When did you start to measure this rescue distance ?

It’s something I inherited from my mother. “I want you close ” she’d say to me . “let’s stay within rescue distance .”

The spanish title explained her in a detached conversation from Amanda .

This is a very unsettling book that has echos of so many thinks , I do wonder myself if it is just one person with two voices , is David a soul that Amanda meet when she was at the hospital before with her own child , like the landscape she lives in is he a shepherd to guide either one way or the other to the light of life or to the light of being with a daughter she may have lost . Maybe this is like the sixth sense or the film the passenger where those that are dead never really accepted  that they are like Bruce Willis or Anne Hathway in both those films need to be guided to the other side . The book to me has a feel of Beckett in a way Amanda and David detatched voices remind me somewhat of Vladmir and Estragon waiting in a room somewhat in limbo trying to get from one place but waaiting for some to guide them. Amanda voice at times remind me of the way Beckett wrote in something like Not I her life tumbles out of her at a great speed , this is wonderfully drawn out in Mcdowell’s translation . For me this will make the shortlist and may just make our shadow shortlist.

The African shore by Rodrigo Rey Rosa

Image result for the african shore by rodrigo rey rosa

The African Shore by Rodrigo Rey Rosa

Guatemalan fiction

Original title – Le Orilla Africana

Translator – Jeffrey Gray

Source – personnel copy

Rodrigo Rey rosa is a Guatemalan writer from a middle class family that meant he travelled a lot growing up. Including europe . When he started studying at a summer writing workshop run by the great writer Paul Bowles , who many books where set in North Africa, Rey Rosa fiction is set in Latin American and also like this book in North Africa where he later spent time with Bowles in Morocco where he translated Rey rosa books into english and after Bowles death he was the executor of Bowles estate . I know that is a lot of mention of Bowles but as you see in this book he has a lot to owe the American writer.

Everyone knew that owls don’t sleep at night and that they can see in the dark. That was why, when someone want to stay awake all night, it was a good idea to catch an Owl and pull out its eyes. Some people boiled the eyes in water and ate them, or you could make an amulet with one of the eyes and wear it on your chest to keep off sleep.

Hamsa returned to the tool shed and smoked several pipes of Kif, thinking of what he should do.

Hamsa captures the owl that links the two tales.

The African shore is one of those short books that after you have put it down seem so much longer than it was. The book is a pair of stories twisting around each other the first is a Take of a Shepard boy given a chance to be a lookout for his Uncle which he hopes I feel he will eventually get money or be given a chance to get across the water to Europe. The we have the second story a young man from Columbia is having to spend some extra time in The country after he lost his passport so we see him meeting and wander the town mix with french woman . A man not in the rush to get home to his wife and life . Then we have the Owl he sees it all and is the character connecting the two stories .

At the end of the street, on the sidewalk across from the herbalist’s , he saw a ragged boy with a two-handled basket trying to sell a barn owl.

He stopped and leaned over the basket to examine it. the owl said “Chi Chichich” Its big black eyes, circled with ochre disc, looked straight ahead. Its old woman’s face was framed by a small halo of feathers.It moved constantly, following the slightest movement around it .

The two meet as the owl changes hand between them both .

This is a clever little book about place , being lost in a place . Being in a place but wanting to be lost in another place it is about that short distance between the two continents Africa and Europe that is only miles but is also millions of miles away from one another. The we have the owl he is another character link the two people in the story but also the sense of place this desert and the town of Tangiers always a melting pot of Africa and europe . Like his Hero Bowles it is a story about coming to this place and feeling part of it The other character in the book is Morocco itself  the street life and characters we meet. Rey Rosa has part Bowles in his writing and also bit of Borges the book is built of short chapters that could almost be little piece of Borges he also has that sense of wanderlust and getting out of Latin america I have found at various times in Bolano’s work but also the works of some like Neuman a sense of connecting the old and new world through the needle of Africa . A great intro to a writer I want to try more of.

Have you read a Guatemalan fiction before ?

 

Reputations by Juan Gabriel Vasquez

 

Reputations

Reputations by Juan Gabriel Vasquez

 

Colombian fiction

Original title – Las reputaciones

Translator – Anne McLean

Source – Library edition

last month I decide I may need pick a few books from the last year that may be in the Man booker list that I hadn’t got to near the top of the list was this the latest from Juan Gabriel Vasquez . Whom I have reviewed on the blog twice before with The sound of things falling and the secret history of Costaguna . The later was on the old IFFP list as well as his debut novel so it is a good chance that he may make it three times on the list. Juan Gabriel Vasquez Is considered one of the great living Latin American writers , his books have been on numerous list of the best books of recent times. He also writes a weekly column for a Colombian newspaper .

What about Javier mallarino ?

The bootblack took a second to realize the question was directed at him. “Sir?”

“Javier Mallarino.Do you know who he is ?”

“The guy who does the cartoons for the newspaper”,the man said.”but he doesn’t come around here any more. he got tired of Bogota, that’s what I was told. he’s been living out-of-town for ages now, up in the mountains

Mallarine ask the bootblack if he knows who he is without knowing he is him so to speak .

Reputatuons is a another slice of Colombian world , this time he use the life of a political cartoonist , One imagines to be in the position that Javier Mallarino is where we meet him he is on his way to the Grand Teatro Colon that evening. We meet him as he is wandering Bogata before this very prestigious evening the first part of the book sees him in this wandering seeing how he went from a serious artist at the beginning into taking up the pen and ink and doing Political caricatures somehow managing to avoid getting into trouble along the way  and building a following a sort of Latin American  Steve Bell is what came to my mind. But as he spends the evening in Glory he is leaving the grand Tearto colon when we meet a young woman a journalist he thinks but she is wanting him to admit to an incident he observed that happened at the very beginning of his life happened when she was maybe attacked by a leading figure in the  political life and this girl was also a friend of his own daughter so the great man has to face a dark secret in his past.

If that were the case, the deterioration could not be less opportune, for Samanta Leal, from whose face a little girl had vanished, was urgently asking him to remember that little girl and her visit to this house in the mountains in July of 1982, and not just that, but she was also asking him to remember the circumstances of that long-ago visit, the names and distinguishing marks of those present that afternoon, everything mallrino saw and heard

He thought she is a journalist to this point when she reminds him of this incident in the past .

I felt this is a clever book to bring out now in a way , how many secrets from the past and stars from the past have had very dark secrets like in the book or even dark Jimmy Saville is one that came straight to my mind when I read this and how power can hide the truth or make other disbelieves the truth about certain people. I also love the choice of political cartoonist a job which at some points in Columbia would have been a short life job! We also want to know what happened that evening when these two seven-year old got drunk and slept was it a dream or real. This is another question do others seek fame from telling stories about other why do it on this evening ! A real story of the modern age when secrets and reputations seem to be fragile in the public eye and the past people have now seem to catch them up more than before !

Revulsion : Thomas Bernhard in San Salvador by Horacio Castellanos Moya

 

 

cover image for

Revulsion : Thomas Bernhard in San Salvador by Horacio Castellanos Moya

El Salvadoran fiction

Original title – El asco, Thomas Bernhard en San Salvador

Translator – Lee Klein

Source – personnel copy

Now I saw this shortly after it came out in the summer, I was searching for some Bernhard books and this from a writer I have featured twice before on the blog appeared . Horacio Casrtellanos Moya is an ex pat salvodoran writer, he has written eleven novels . This book is the reason he left El Salvador when it came out is was considered to political many calling for it to be banned and his mother received death threats and Horacio himself fled. He now teaches at Iowa university.

The last time my mother came to Montreal twelve-year ago, she warned ,e. Moya , she said I had to return when she died, I couldn’t be an ingrate.Now here I am, even if it’s only a month, even if it’s no more than thirty days, I don’t intend to stay here a day longer, although we haven’t been able to sell my mother’s house; I’m here a place I never thought I’d return to, to which I never wanted to return.Nut IO don’t understand what you’re doing here, Moya , this is something I wanted to ask you, this worries me the most, how could someone who is free to live in another country, some place minimally decent ,prefer to stay in this shithole

The hatred is clear in this passage near the start of the book Vega hatred of the place .

Now the title is a give away here the book is very much an homage to the style of writing that Thomas Bernhard became known , so the book is a single paragraph and in the best Bernhard tradition the main character is miserable . The book is formed of a couple of hours one evening between to men . Vega a professor how escaped the country and was living in Canada till his mother died and a writer called Moya (another nod to Bernhard he has put himself in his books as well) Vega is talking about the country and the way it has changed and go down hill a tirade against Salvador of the time but this is somewhat tongue in check in style there is a dark humour at times. This is a classic pub scene in a way with two men talking about the world one returning has seen the world and wants to tell his friend about how bad this place was .The Bernhard connection is also the last lines of the book as Vega took his name as an alias back in the day as he liked him as a writer.

Television is already a plague; sure, in Montreal I don’t have a television, but here at my brother’s house, where I’ve stayed until this morning, they’ve forced me to watch television whilst eating meals; you wouldn’t believe it, Moya , the television is in front of the dining table,it’s horrible , you can’t eat normally, you can’t have any sort of normal meal, because of television’s on ready to disturb your nerves.

I like this part Bernhard but also partly hilarious in its tones from vega .

I loved this short book Moya is a marmite writer I think you will either love his works like I do or hate them they tend to be grim and like this rather uneventful but full of life , it is easy to see why the book when it came out twenty years ago but not long after the end of the civil war in El Salvador a glimpse into the abyss that was the country before told by Vega and the way he saw the peace. This book is also an homage to modernism ala Bernhard but also Joyce with the action taking place over the space of two hours in an evening as the two get drunk and try to relive their earlier life . Have you read a Moya book , never sure why he isn’t as considered as highly as  Bolano for me he is actually a better writer and in this translation Lee klein has brought the Bernhard side to life for me.He is the master of capturing those dark times of the late 20th century in central america where violence , dark police forces and violence where just below the surface.

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