The last days of el Comandante by Alberto Barrera Tyszka

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last day of el Comandante by Alberto Barrera Tsyzka

Venezuelan fiction

Original title –  Patria o muerte

Translators – Rosalind Harvey and Jessie Mendez Sayer

Source – review copy

Now back to Spanish lit month and here I have a second book from Alberto Barrera Tyszka. I reviewed the Sickness when it was on the IFFP list. That was eight years ago so this last book that follows the time running up to the death of Hugo Chavez from a main character and those around him, Tyszka wrote Chavez’s  biography he is influenced by writers such as Dostoyevski, Dumas, Stevenson, and Chekov as well as Salvador Garmendia and Jose Ignacio Cabrujus two of the greatest Venezuelan writers of recent years.

“I wouldn’t be surorised if it was all lies,” Beatriz muttered “Something the cubans made up to distract us.”

Sanabria wathced in silence.

Chavez looked thin and pale. He was on his feet behind the podium, and , oddly he was reading out a written text instead of improvising in front of the camera, It was unheard of for this man, so fond of speaking for hours in fromt of any audience, to restrict himself to a few word, suddenly held hostage by a small piece of paper.

I loved that last line of being held hosatge by a piece of paper this man that could talk for hours starting to look unwell !

The main character in the book is a retired Oncologist Miguela Sanabria he is sort of a middling figure neither anti or pro Chavez but given his previous profession, his opinion is sort by both sides. His wife is very anti-Chavez in her views. He is contacted by his brother a pro-Chavez then his Nephew Vladimir who is high up in the regime who has hold of a mobile that has the truth about how bad the president is a recording whilst Chavez had surgery. Outside all this Miguel is asked by a mysterious Cuban to become chairman of the condominium they live in. Their neighbor Fredy is writing about Chavez but is offered a fresh angle on this book. When he is given a chance to see some medical reports. that means he will have to leave alone without his family for the US. THen There is Young Maria being homeschooled by her mother  Cecilla who is stuck in the apartment as she is scared of the outside world. So Maria turns to Chat rooms after Cecilla has the internet installed to keep the little girl in touch with the outside world. She talks to Fedy son Rodrigo on these chat rooms they offer a different view on the world around . them. This is a snapshot of Middle-class lives in Venezuela as the life of Chavez hung in the Balance.

“The problem isn’t your neighbours. The problem is you” This was the brother’s response to his various sorrows. Miguel had gone to visit him and told him about everything that was going on in  his building. From Antonio’s point of view, letting the boy into his house had been his first mistake.

“What was I supposed to do? The husband’s awat, their family lives in Maturin, and she was standing ther, crying, totally overwheklmed.”

As Miguel lets a neighbour in his house afterthe husnband has left his brother thinks he is making a mistake ?

Tyszka has a sideline like a lot of Latin American writers have as a soap writer and this is like that a slice of everyday life capturing the effects of the end of Chavez when he was dying of characters using a group of characters connected by family or location. Middle class but all struggling Miguel walking a fine line between his family members but at a point knowing things are worse than they are being told. Fredy a journalist given a chance and his son chatting with a fellow youngster in the building a new face of Venezuela in the chat rooms. A powerful work on everyday lives of those caught up in the last days showing how entwined we all are.  As the death of the great leader looms on the horizon. Like a soap opera, it mixes News and Melodrama and some outrages bits. Hae you read Tyszka?

 

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The Iliac Crest by Cristina Rivera Garza

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Iliac Crest by Cristina Rivera Garza

Mexican fiction

Original title – La cresta de Ilión

Translator – Sarah Booker

Source – personal copy

Well, another crossover for women in translation and Spanish lit month and another great Mexican writer. Cristina Rivera Garza is a well-known writer and professor, she grew up near the US border in Mexico. She has won many of the lit prizes in Mexico. Garza style has been described by her as “disturbing pleasure ” She aims to darken things and make the reader suspicious. Believing that there is too much light and clarity in the world. She uses concepts such as sex and identity this is very much the case here. Another great novel from Mexico.

Three days after her arrival, Amparo had already devolped a routine that we shared and respected equally. So placid, so natrual, that anyone not familar with us might have belived we werehappily married. At first glance, no one would have suspected that I was just playing along, that my fear hadn’t subsided in the least quite the opposite: it kept growing.

Amparo would wake up early, batrhe and, with her hair still wet, go downstairs to the kitchen to make coffee for me and tea for the betrayed.

The two settle in the mans house and make it like a home before they start twisting the screw on the narrator.

this is a strange book an unnamed narrator is visited on a dark night by two women. He is a doctor in a small coastal town between the north and the south. The women seem to know the narrator they invite themselves into the house. The two of them seem to know some dark secret about the narrator He tries to defend himself from their constant question and accusations of who he was before. The women one a Mexican woman called Amparo Davila a writer the other another unnamed character is just called the betrayed. The two start talking in a gibberish to one another as they start to unsettle the narrator meanwhile he is caught by the hip of one of the women which he sees as he tries to remember what it is called well that is the Iliac crest of the title and part of the pelvis which is part of this gothic tale about peoples gender identity.

Amaparo pproached me sureptitiously one night. She brought a bottle of anisette and, after serving the liquor in two small glasses, reclined in front of the lit fireplace. We chatted idly until, pausing, she looked up at me.

“You know?” she said offhandedlu. “I kniow your secret”

As had become cusomary in our few conversations, her comment made me let out a short burst of laughtter. I laughed not only because the woman claimed to know my secret but because she shockingly assumed there was only one.

I loved the last poart of this about his many secrets and them thing he has this one large one !!

Another one of those great short novels that have come from Mexico in recent years this also features a real person well it isn’t here in the end by Amparo Davila is an actual writer her first translation came out in English last year. She writes a lot about gender and there is a lot in this book about that the IIliac crest for example is part of the pelvis and high and more evident in women then in her intro to this book The translator tells us that the use of gender is hard to translate the narrator refers to themselves as a male but when the two women question them it is as thou they are a female. as they play out positions the betrayed the person from Amparo and the narrator who isn’t what we think he or she, their position is questioned. Like a lot of Mexican fiction, this has levels to the narrative and is mainly about females roles within Mexico. As for the simple story two women turning up and questioning someone well for me I was reminded of the Pinter play The birthday party which sees two men turn up and question a man. A great translation from Sarah booker as she says we lose something as we have no gender in English.

The fish child by Lucia Puenzo

 

The Fish Child

The fish child by Lucia Puenzo

Argentinean fiction

Original title – El niño pez

Translator – David William foster

Source – personal copy

A sort intertwined review her as Lucia Puenzo is a film director, screenwriter and a novelist this is debut novel. Which she filmed at a later date. She studied Literature and then film studies. She is the daughter of Luis Puenzo another well known Argentinean filmmaker. I ordered this when the film appeared on Mubi a streaming service I use that has a film on it for thirty days so I was pleased when the book arrived just before the film of this book was due to leave so I got to watch both. The film shares a similar none linear narrative but the book is told from Lalas dog’s point of view.

Guayi no longer took her days off. She would stay at home on sundays. But dressed in lala’s clothes. They were inseparable in recent months. Lala missed school more and more and Guayi cleaned the house less and less. They had begun to look alike, in black and white

The two are drawn closer over time.

The book opens when one of the two main characters Guayi or as she is really known Allin is the Paraguayan she was fifteen when events at home meant she had to leave and find this job working for a Judge and his wife. She finds a puppy and gives the puppy to LaLa the younger daughter of the family that is only a couple of years younger than Guayi the puppy nervous and small is called Serafin by the young girl and we see the dog grow as the family grows in the film the dog is there but it isn’t his perspective on the world whereas the book shows he observing the growing relationship between these two young women over a number of years as the two teenagers become young lovers and women. But the father has taken to the maid as well. Meaning they want to leave the family home. As they grow close they plan to leave and return to Paraguay this is where the title of the book comes from and a myth of a small boy that draws people under the water with him in a local lake this is something in her past that means more than that. Lala eventually early in the book but later in the timeline goes to Guayi hometown finds her father and what happened in the past. In the meantime, The Judge had killed himself and the Maid Guayi is chief suspect as it is discovered that she sold a painting that she and Lala were going to use to escape. They steal bits and bobs from Lala family but they also stumble when they sell the painting into a trafficker of girls through a dog trainer they meet. Will they ever get together? Lala race back to find where Guayi is being held and discover what she can do to help?

The force turned the canoe over and suddenly the lake was larger than the world. The wind was impellin along both clouds and waves, turning my barking intio bubbles. The lighthouse disappeared, along the with the shoreline and the house. I opened my mouthand my lungs filled with water. Lala continued to swim toward the bottom, searching for him, until she ranout of breath..

Serafin and Lala on the lake in Paraguay looking at the bottom for the fish boy to come for her.

I maybe did the wrong thing as the film had only a day left to watch it I watched it straight away then read the book so the two young actress and all the characters were those in the film. I often prefer the over way round to read than watch a film. But I enjoyed  seeing the differences when I read the book first the narrator being the dog Serafin then we have a lot more little side piece in the book whereas the film is mainly about Guayi and Lala there relationship is close sexual and remind me of Heavenly creatures film about  although the girls here didn’t kill anyone there is a close tie between the girls in Heavenly creatures. Then there is the Fish child of the title a little bit of Magic realism thrown in a story that mixes Christian religion and older myths together shown in the film when the gate to Allin’s old house has ribbons and saint-like models of the fish boy tied to it.  So this is a great LGBT book also a woman in translation book also one for my Spanish lit month ticking three boxes. Have you read a novel or seen a film that she has made?

Atlantic Hotel by Joao Gilberto Noll

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Atlantic Hotel by Joao Gilberto Noll

Brazilian fiction

Original title – Hotel Atlântico

Translator – Adam Morris

Source – personal copy

Well, it is back to Brazil and a second helping of Joao Gilberto Noll. I so enjoyed the quiet creature I decided to try another and of the two I had this one appealed. Even thou he died a few years ago, he still has a lot of works to be translated into English. He was a guest writer at Kings College in London in 2004 which lead to the other book I have by him called Lord which I will review at a later date the book is set in London partly.

I glanced at the time: eight thirty. It took some effort to get up; my legs hurt. I slipped my blazer on and went to the bathroom, steadying myself on things, feeling a sort of disability- the image of a convalescent getting ready to leave the hospital came to mind.

In the mirror I saw deep circlesunder my eyes, skin all scaly, parched lips. I slid my tongue along an inflamed cavity in one of my teeth, figuring it wasn’t doing me any good to stay here emumerating thesigns of my body’s deterioration.The time to leave has come.

After his first night in the hotel. This remind me a lot of DOA the way he said he was falling apart.

This is a very different book from Quiet creature was. The book opens with a narrator who arrives at a hotel. The Atlantic hotel and has a room where a murder had occurred, he had just flown in he said but has very little luggage and asks what happened in the room but then he is a taxi and the narrative becomes like the road trip from hell, as we follow him from dark seedy motes to motel as he starts to meet people like Susan on a Bus but she is a troubled soul like a narrator as she takes fatal overdose this increases the sense of death and the world drawing in around our unnamed narrator. later he seeks refuge at a church but who is the narrator as the man says various jobs he has done and various things he has done to the people he meets along the way. As he is accused of something who is this man what has drawn him to be the way he is on the run through Brazil but always being close to death as he does almost as though he has a cloak of darkness that tinges all that is around him.

I was drinking coffee with milk and eating a thick slice of butter bread, in Father Anselomo’s old frock. Antonio was sitting in the same chair I’d found him when I arrived at the house. Only hehad bow turned the chair in my direction.

He told me he lived in Rome for four years.There he’d known hunger , absolute misery. He’d wandered the streets in rags. Eaten whatever he was given Sometimes he sat in the doorstep of a fancy restaurant until a cop gave hium the bootor a waiter brought him something to eat- the ramains of the customers meal into a cardboard carton.

Everyone he meets have dark stories to tell him in this road trip around Brazil.

I felt this was more Lynchian than his last book the feeling of our narrator falling down a dark hole as he like the main character in Mullholland drive seems to be drawn into a dark seedy world that he isn’t quite sure what he is doing. There is as I said that sense of disjointedness that is in his works I was reminded of Toby Jones character in Berberian sound studio where he is drawn into the world around him without seeing it happen and the darkness of the film he was doing the sound for. The other film I was reminded of was a classic film noir that was made twice and that is DOA the man on the run here is obviously trying to escape something dark from his life it says early on that he aged forty years overnight at the first night at the hotel. Like the film his world becomes stranger as the days move on like in the film, his world draws in around him and his body starts to fall apart. Have you read this book at all ?

Quiet creature on the corner by João Gilberto Nollrr

Quiet creature on the corner by  João Gilberto Noll

Brazilian fiction

Original title – O quieto animal da esquina

Translator – Adam Morris

Source = Personal copy

I move from Spanish lit to Portuguese lit well Brazilian lit and a short Novel I have been wanted to read for a couple of years. Gilberto Noll wrote his first short story in 1970 at a very young age and went on to Study at the Iowa writers workshop in the early eighties which is when he started publishing novels and short stories collections around the early eighties as well. He also ran a twice-weekly short story in a Sao Paulo daily paper. He published a number of novels before passing away two years ago in the city of Porto Alegre which happens to be the setting for this book as well.

Suddenly I realized I was so close to the singing girl that I could almost feel her breath- I didn’t say anything, she stopped singing, I noticed there was a speckled wall that hid us from the building – I hit her with a kiss and she fell with me onto the wet earth, my tongue passing through a murmur stifled in the girls mouth, for sure a scream if I were to take my mouth off hers, and it was to late,

He goes round to the singing girl but this leads to him goinjg to far but I like the waty he noticed the speckled war that seems sinster in a way !!

The book is narrated by a 19-year-old poet, a drifter it seems having lost his job within the first lines of the book. Still living at home with his mother early on in the book whilst his mother slept. So he decides to sit and write a poem taking the most of the silence but then he is interrupted ! he goes round to a neighbor who is singing and covers her mouth to stop he screaming and then has sex with her thus he has raped her. return to the shredded sofa at his mother’s house next morning he sees the police around and fails to escape this is where things get strange he is arrested but within a few moments he has ended up in a large country estate  were he is held captive by two people a couple Kurt the German and his wife Gerda also Otavio in this strange house. Where he has been whisked to. The estate is different all they want is for him to write poetry for them, just that.  But why? this is a disjointed world where one moment our narrators is in one place then arrives in another.

At the lunch table there were three people besides me: Kurt at one-end, Otavio at the otherm and a woman with blue rinsed white hair across fromme. Kurt introduced me: Gerda, his wife, silent most of the time she asked my age then drank a sip of white wine from her glass.

Kurt had the same solemn air as his wife, Otavio did not. otavio seemed like the Plebeian of the household, besides the miad, obviously, lowering here eyes threatrically when they encountered mine.

He meets Kurt and his two companions as things take a really weird turn and things start getting surreal.

It’s easy to see why he has been called a Brazilian David Lynch for his writing style it has that sense of drifting place that Lynch has done so well in his later films where we think we are on one path only to be abruptly turned onto another. Our narrator is a troubled man a man that has just lost his job cleaning the drains and really wants to be a poet the world he describes is poetic as it makes what is a dark part of the city of Porto Alegre. Then he ends up in the mansion with the German Kurt this part is like Kafka in a way our narrator has no idea why he is there other than having to write Poems. The title of the book is one of the poems he writes whilst there. This is a jumpy book that sometimes feels as thou he has taken some parts out of it to make you the reader work like I feel Lynch does so well in his films why do we need to know the full picture sometimes filling in the gaps is very interesting. I have two more books by him on the tbr pile so don’t be surprised to see him crop up again in the next couple months.

Spanish and Portuguese Lit month 2019

It is coming up soon it will be July and August and for the last few years that has been Spanish and Portuguese lit month. I usually run it with Richard from Caravana de Recuerdos   Well Richard has decided to take a back seat and won’t be co-hosting this year. I am not the most oprganised person but will try and get a links page sorted for July for people to post links here are two reminders of the countries covered by the two languages

 

 

 

Image result for spanish speaking countries

 

 

 

Here is the spanish languages countries and their flags sorry it isn’t the clearest pic best I could find and now the Portuguese countries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am concentrating on those writers from the Latin American boom years for my months this year. Here is a guide to the writers you coukld choose some boom and a few post-boom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This map is a good starting point. You can choose whoever you want I may point you in Charco Press direction as they have been bringing some great contemporary Latin American fiction.  I have decide on a book for everyone to try and post on in the last week of August. To do a reread and a book I loved more than twenty years ago and a cornerstone of Latin American boom literature…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes it is Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s 100 years of solitude set in the fictional town of Macondo a place Marquez used in other works like Leaf storm before this book and is often seen in other books by him but not always as Macondo it is set on his childhood home of Aracataca. I’m sure many readers of this blog have read this book but how many of us have blogged about it?  I have covered five books by him in this blogs time but neither this or love in the time of cholera so far so in part I am putting this right. I will put a list of other books I am choosing near the time. What have you in mind to read ? will you be joining me in reading 100 years of solitude?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winstonsdad Man booker shortlist 2019

I was going to not read the list and did my usual guess of what would be on the list and got it so far wrong I wanted to see what was in these books and yes I managed in a month to get nearly through them all bar hundred pages of the Can Xue novel which by the time this post is up I may have read them as I am on the road to Alnwick tomorrow and a short holiday. So my six shortlisted books are-

Drive your plow over the bones of the dead by Olga Tokarczuk

What happens when nature kicks back we see here when things start happening in the Polish hinterlands in a small community. A previous winner is different to flights and shows the depths of her writing.

The shape of Ruins by Juan Gabriel Vasquez

Image result for the shape of ruins

A book that sees Vasquez as a character in his own book that is about an assignation of a Columbian politician almost like there JFK a great historical novel.

The years by Annie Ernaux

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A powerful little book at post-war  France and its generation told through pictures, movies, books, events, and life it builds a vivid picture of the years that followed the war.

At Dusk by Hwang Sok-Yong

An architect is greet by his past in a story that sees two sides of lives in Modern Korea from two people that grew up in a working clas  area and went in different directions but meet at the moment there worlds both are about to change.

The Death of Murat Idrissi by Tommy Wieringa

Image result for the death of murat idrissi

 

Maybe the shortest book on the list but for me it is the most powerful as it is about a subject that we all see on the news that of immigration and he uses four characters to encompass a wider world.

Celestial bodies by Jokha Alharthi

 

Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi

I am yet to review this but this family saga shows the growth of Oman through the lives of three sisters and the family of the sisters going back to the early 20th century and to now with one of the main stories being told by a relative on jumbo heading home to his family.

So here are my six books an  interesting list of books I have discovered three maybe four books that have passed me by. What are your thoughts on the books on the list ?

Mouthful of birds by Samanta Schweblin

Mouthful of Birds by Samanta Schweblin

Mouthful of birds by Smanta Schweblin

Argentinean short fiction

Original title – Pájaros en la boca

Translator – Megan McDowell

Source – library copy

When the longlist of the Man Booker came out I was happy I had one book on the list and had read half of it just in case it made the longlist as I had it on loan from the library. This is the second book by Samanta Schweblin to be listed by the man Booker international prize. She has published three collections of short stories and one novel. She was chosen by Granta in 2010 as one of the best 22 Spanish language writers under 35. I enjoyed her previous shortlisted book Fever Dream.

When she reaches the road, Felicity understandsher fate. He has not waited for her, and, as if the pastwere a tangible thing, she thinks she can still see the weak reddish glow of the car’s taillights fading on the horizon. In the flat darkness of the countryside, there is only disappointment, a wedding dress, and a bathroom she shouldn’t have taken so long in

Sitting on a rock beside the door, she picks grains of rice from embroidery on her dress, with nothing to look at but the open fields, the highway, and, besides the highway, a women’s bathroom.

The opening lines of the first story Headlights a woman jilted on her wedding day.

The collection has twenty stories. The opening story Headlights is a tale of a bride jilted left by the side of the road. I was hit by one line in the opening as she picked the rice from the embroidery of her dress so soon after they haven’t even fallen out themselves. Ther woman Felicity then wanders and meets another woman Nene who it seems was expecting her to be there. Then the next story sees a pregnant woman and her partner trying to get free of the pregnancy in some strange ways. Further on a strange tale of a brother visiting his depressed brother Walter a man that everything is a struggle for him to do. The title story is Sara who has decided she will only eat living birds a macabre tale and how it affects her relationships with her father he comes to take her to live with him after hearing about his daughter’s new diet. It ends with a bird being left in Sara’s room in a cardboard box and the door being closed. Then lastly the Merman a woman heads to a dockside bar and finds him sat on a post nearby looking at her the two have a conversation. In which she explains about her ill mother who is slightly insane and how her brother isn’t accepting the fact she somehow ends up kissing the merman.

I’m sitting at the port, waiting for Daniel, when I see the merman look at me from the pier. He’s sitting on the first concrete column, where the water is deeper and the beach hasn’t begun, some fifty yard out. It takes me a minute to relize what I’ seeing, what he is eexactly: such a man from the waist up, such a sea creature from the waist down.He looks to one side, then calmly to the other, and finally his eyes turn back to me.

The woman sat having a coffee has caught the eye of the merman the two then talk .

I enjoyed fever dream but for me, this collection maybe shows her real talent is with short stories there is a real sense of the supernatural and surreal at times in this collection. Schweblin has cleverly left place out of this collection which means it makes the tales more universal in there feeling. She also seems to nod towards the great of short stories a pinch of Poe in the supernatural tales, in the depressing ones I saw a real touch of Raymond Carver for me the opening tale especially had hints of his sorrowful style. even Roald Dahl in the darkness in the tales which is something he was great at.  then if Borges had rewritten Grimms tales for a modern reader he would produce something like this the merman for example where maybe the Mermann is a mirror of what the woman wanted her brother to really be? ok cold to kiss but willing to listen to her. I can see why it made the longlist finishing it off since the list came out it is one of the best short story collections I have read probably since circus Bulgaria

Trout , belly up by Rodrigo Fuentes

Image result for trout belly up rodrigo

Trout, belly up by Rodrigo Fuentes

Guatemalan fiction

Original title -Trucha Panza Arriba

Translator  Ellen Jones

Source – Personal copy

One of the recent new press that has been bringing out books that I have loved is the Scottish based Charco books this is the fourth book by them I have reviewed in the last year and this also is a gem of a short story collection. They have been releasing the leading new voices in Latin American fiction. Rodrigo Fuentes has won a number of prizes for short stories including the Marquez prize the most prestigious for short stories in Latin America. He spends his time between his Homeland and the US where he teaches this is his first collection to appear in English.

Don Henrik had travelled all over the world, and in Norway he told us that afternoon, he’d learned all there was to know about breeding trout, gesturing towards the top of the mountain and his plot of land, he described where the first cement tanks would go – three meters in  diameter, eight hundred tout in each one – detailed how he’d filter the water and connect pipes up to the spring, feed and fillet the fish.

The hint of a european past and the reason for opening a trout tfarm in the mountains of Guatamala.

This is a different collection of stories as it moves us to the Guatemalan countryside and the efforts of those people that have to end up in this part of the world to get by. Henrik is the main character in the book he keeps cropping up in books he has inherited a farm and has taken the bold step of setting up a trout farm. This explains the strange title to the collection which is something that happens to the fish when the tanks they are kept in aren’t properly controlled and the oxygen is a problem this is a theme that happens in another story as Henrik and a friend go diving and run into problems. The collection has seven stories all set in the countryside. A motherless cow caught in the crossfire of striking farms and a hired gun remind us of the violent city life of Guatemala that is always lurking in the shadows of these stories. Recovering from splits drinking every week elsewhere subtle lives sad lives as the harsh reality of being a farm and trying to get by in the modern world.

In order to level the ground for the trout farm, Don Henrik had to use a machine brought in from San Agustin. All this weas virgin forest, and the machine ploughed night and day through the undergrowth shifting big rocks half-buried in the ground,He onlyt cut down one caoba, because the trees here are huge and, rightly or wrongly, Don Henrik respects age. That clearing now contains two tanks, my hut, Juancho’s little shack, and the wooden terrace Don Henrick asked us to build, all surrounded by thick forest. You still have to cut it back everyday, because every day the ferns, vines and climbers thry to gain back the territory from us. But I like using the machette to protect the clearing of ours

A violent last line here shows the battle of man and nature like In Fitzcarraldo the jungle is alway there

Harold Bloom talks about in his book how to read and why about there being two modern lines of short story writing these are of the Chekhovian-Hemingwayesque or of the Kafka-Borgesian. Now, this is firmly in the first Chekov Hemminway style of short stories sad characters living life and death. Henrik, the main character has a nod to being European as there are hints of Scandinavian past whether he lived or was from there isn’t sure in the brief glimpses here. He could easily have been a Chekov character as he tries to show the honest realities of the world his characters are in. His building of the trout farm in the corner of the mountain was like the efforts of in a small scale of Fitzcarraldo to build his opera house in the jungle putting something out of place with the world around it.  This is the tough countryside and souls battling to stay there and trying to escape the violent world of the cites they have known.

Have you read many other books from Guatemala?

Resistance by Julián Fuks

 

ResistanceJulian.jpg

 

Resistance by Julián Fuks

Brazilian fiction

Original title – A RESISTENCIA

Translator – Daniel Hahn

Source – personnel copy

I now move to Brazil and a Brazilian writer that was born to Argentina parents like the character in his novel Julian Fuks was on the list of Granta best Brazilian novelist in 2012. He has worked as a reporter for Folha de S. Paulo and a reviewer for the magazine cult. He has published three other books before this one, this was his fourth book and won a number of book prizes Oceanos prize for literature in Portuguese, Jose Saramago literary prize and the Anna Seghers prize. This follows a different path to some of the other books I have read set around the 1970s and Argentina with child Narrators. Kamchatka and talking to ourselves both set at the same time feature the family on the run this book is set slightly later as the family has now settled in Brazil.

My brother is adopted, but I can’t say and don’t want to say that my brother is adopted. If I say this if I speak these words that I have long taken care to silence, I reduce my brother to a single categorical condition, a single essential attribute: my brother is something, and this something is what so many people try to see in him, thios something is set of marks we insist on looking for, despite ourselves, in his features,i in his gestures, in his acts.My brother is adopted, but I don;t want to reinforce the stigma that word evokes, the stigma that is the word itself made character.

The opening lines of the book see the main narrator talk about his older brother and his adoption.

As I said this book has a child narrator it is Sebastian the youngest child in this family his parents had to leave Argentina as they saw their friends that we also in opposition to the regime at the time disappearing here and there so they decide to run with the oldest child in the family Sebastian older brother they had Sebastian and his Older sister when they settled in Brazil . There were also children have disappeared that is what might have been Sebastian’s brother his mother may have given him away. This we discover as the book unfolds. What he thinks is his family isn’t at times as pictures of the time and what he is told by his parents don’t ever quite match up they never seem to fully settle in there home and his older brother is a troubled soul they talk about Winnicott his theories around adopted children. His parents are both psychoanalysts  There is a strong undercurrent of sadness in this book the feeling of what it is to be born into an exile family never home at home and never able to get home.

The photo doesn’t say what I want it to say, the photo doesn’t say anything. The photo is merely his soft face in the middle of a shady veranda, his eyes looking at me through the potographer’s lens, those eyes that are so light, that hair smottjerthan I could have imagined- his childish beauty that perhaps I envied. Hi headis tilted to one side as though he were asking something. but I knowit’s not for me to make up what it is .

The picture he discovers tell different tales of his parents past than he had been told by them.

I enjoyed this book it is a highly personal book one senses that Fuks himself must feel some of what Sebastian tells us of his world. Like the two books, it has a strong childlike nature to his view of the world as he ponders over the old photos he finds questioning what he is seeing in the way we do when we are children. Fuks has said in interviews he is a writer that doesn’t know how to make things up. It is only recently that there have been a number of books about this dark time in Argentina and the effect on those like Fuks that are the children of those who managed to escape. But then there is also Sebastian’s brother adopted and his mother that died and never really knew him but he managed to escape but is forever scarred by this. Another gem from Charco press that produced a couple of my favourite books last year have brought out another strong voice. Have you read any of Charco Press books yet?

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