Dark Constellations by Pola Oloixarac

Dark Constellations by Pola Oloixarac

Argentinian fiction

Original title – Las constelaciones oscuras

Translator – Roy Kesey

Source – personal copy

I have another from the Grangta best Spanish writer list of a few years ago. This list has thrown up so many great writers over the last few years. Pola Oloixarac is an Argentinian writer she studied Philosophy and has written a number of pieces for various publications including New York times. She has written three novels this is her second the first novel has also been translated into English. She’s a founding editor of The Buenos Aires Review bilingual journal featuring contemporary literature in the Americas

On the final day of 1882, a group of explorers reached the sea that surrounds the crater of Famara, the volcanic mass that rises up from the archipelago of Juba. Like a fortress on the water , the crater’s aerial line shrouded the bay in grandeur. The travelers made land on a beach of black sqand crored by the tails of lizards, and began their climb along a mossy trail through a series of gorges that wound their way through the sinous formations of dark lava. Anchored in the bay,  their ship looked like an old dinosaur, its viscera extracted by parasites who lowered the cages, bronze instruments, wooden traps, and coils of rope into the sand amidst the boulders onshore

The opening as the head to discover new plants.

Dark Constellations is a work that involves three stories the first is a plant biologist on the canary islands discovering new plants. Then in the 1980s, we follow Cassio a hacker at the dawn of the internet we follow him from a kid entranced by computers and girls to a brilliant scholar and then a wonderful hacker.  Then in the near future, we have a group of scientists trying to discover a way of tracking people through there individual DNA. The latter two stories are interlinked as Max in the near future recruits Cassio he was a brilliant hacker in his day. As they use people’s biometric data to project their life and what will happen to them. Meanwhile, in 1882 the scientist Niklas Bruun has discovered a plant that he feels lets him connect with other species. Then in the near future, Max has made Cassio work on this algorithm as it is a new species as Max says. This is a mix of cyberpunk gen X and nods to the great explorers of the victorian age. A trio of tales that are wound together to a scary look at the future.

Cassio broke off all relationships with women, starting with the ones in his house. His natural satellites, Sonia and Yolanda, mother and maid, whom he perceived as inauthentic, united to form an incomprehensibly sadisitc caste. The are of his life coincidedwith the rise of women, considered a “Minority” , toward equal civil rights, but his mental life moved in the opposite direction, Soon his room began to stink of pizza and Coca Cola, sources of essential nutrients for growing young programmers. On the TV, ads showed blue liquids poured onto vaginal products”with wings” which didn’t help in the slightest. Was this what they had inside ?

Cassio struggle with his realtionships with Females whenhe was younger and became radical at times.

This is a clever look at the near future were Tech companies maybe have to much power the thought of DNA and over biometric being used to track us even lay the course of our lives. This is a storyline is one I have seen taken to its climax in the film Minority Report a Philp K dicks story there is a fell here she is a fan of his I have read a couple of his books years ago. From Cassio a rebel hacker his life is a classic blueprint of a lot of Tech giants from a scholar and backyard tech person. Is similar to the likes of Gates and Jobs but here it is set in Argentina. |cassio is also a classic Gen X character a slacker but then like so many gen x he gets caught up in the real world. This is a highly original book I had brought both her books as I had seen her as a writer that challenges the boundaries. Have you read this book?

The Bitch by Pilar Quintana

The Bitch by Pilar Quintana

Colombian Fiction

Original tile – La Perra

Translator – Lisa Dillman

Source – review copy

Here I have a crossover of Spanish lit month and women in translation month by another of those that were selected a few years ago for the Bogota 39 list of writers at the hay festival. Which for me has always been a list that has produced some of the best books I have read over the period of this blog. She has published four novels this is her latest and won a big prize in Columbia where it was described as “above all, the great economy and literary quality of the prose; its ability to display extraordinary oppression amid great openness and geographic immensity. by fellow writer Alonso Cueto who’s a Blue hour, I loved so this is praise indeed. 

The syringe didn’t work, Damaris’s arm was strong, but clumsy, and her fingers as fat as the rest of her. Every time she pressed the plunger, it wnet all the way down and the little squirt of milk shot out the dog’s mouth and dribbled everywhere. Since the puppy didn’t yet know how to lick, she couldn’t put milk in a bowl for her, and the only baby bottles they sold in town were for humans- to big, Don Jaim suggest an eyedropper and Damaris gave it a go, but of she had to feed her drop by drop, the dog would never fill her belly. Then Damaris thought of soaking bread in milk and letting the puppy suck at it. That turned out to be the solution: she devoured the whole thing.

Mothering this small pup from milk to solid food in the end Damaris did it all with the pup.

The bitch is set in a small village on the very edge of the village and follows Damaris and her husband Rogelio he is a fisherman. We open with a description of the dogs they had own which has a brutal scene of a tail infected with maggots being cut with a machete this is a brutal intro to a hard world of fishermen and there within a remote village on the edge of the Jungle, we are told early on that Mobiles hadn’t quite reached them there in this small corner of Columbia. So when Damaris has the chance to have a female pup as a new dog after another dog had been poisoned something that has been happening a lot locally. She mothers this pup moving to another room at night so she can tend to her pups needs. Even carrying the small puppy in her bra keeping her close. But the pup grows into a semi-wild dog and ends up wandering into the jungle and comes back wound and is nursed back to health in a mother like way by Damaris but then she has pups and is a bad mother to her pups what is Damaris to do with this dog she doted on but has changed so much her biological is ticking down the pup was her child as her family observes she is all dried up at her age.

When she got home, Damaris was as happy to see the dog as the dog was her. and she petted her for a long time and only stopped after looking down at her hands and seeing they were covered with filth. She decided to give her a bath. The sun was till beating down and Damaris need to rinse the heat and sweat od her walk she bathed the pup in the washtub using the blue laundry soap and brush, much to the displeasure of the little dog, who hated water and lowered her head and hid her tail.

Another  bit of mothering but you see the dog reaction isn’t one of a dog settled as we later see!!

This is an interesting study of a wife and husband that have reached that point in their relationship. where they haven’t had children but Damaris seems to have a maternal gap that is filled when she has the pup at varu=ious times it is pointed out to her husband how she is mothering this pup and not spending time with him. Then there is the dog a bad mother and a wild spirit tempt to the jungle but not wanting to be tied down cared for but not broken to being a pet dog no this has a feral spirit. Never named but there is a vision of a standard street dog you see on many films in Latin America other dogs they had have been described as a lab bulldog style cross so a real old fashion Heinz 57 dogs. This is a fast-paced book that I read in one sitting. A  read with just  150 pages it has ups and downs and opens a small village up and the hard people that live with not much other than there dogs that others in the village will poison for various reasons. A good choice for both lit months.

A Silent Fury by Yuri Herrera

A Silent Fury (The El Bordo Mine Fire)

Mexican Non-fiction

Original title – El Incendio de la mina El Bordo

Translator – Lisa Dillman

Source – gift

I was sent this kindly by the Pr person from And Other stories for sending her a TLS with a review of her first book in translation which she hadn’t been able to get so it gave me a book for Spanish lit month. I had reviewed his debut in English a few years ago and had meant to get back and review another book by Yuri Herrera anyway this reportage work appealed to me having lived in two areas of the Uk with strong mining connections I have heard tales of how dangerous it was here where there is a deal of Health and safety. So to read a work that dealt with a large mining disaster in another country it was appealing.

The bell never rang, the ones that were there expressly for that kind of event, even though, as the agebt from the public prosecutor office noted months later, they were indeed functioning properly

There were some who later said that they first smelled smoke at two O’clock in the morning, but it was at six that Delfino Rendon raised the cry of alarm , once he had finished cleaning the chites on level 415. He had just  extracted several loads of metal on525 when he detected an unfamilar smell and decided to go up, and then up some more , and on reaching 365 and approaching the shaft wellhead he noticed something that smelled like woodsmoke, and that the level was too hot

So four hours before they first said it fire was evident and other noticed more four hours later in accounts.

This was a personal work for the writer the El Bordo mine is in his home town of Pachuca what he wants to do was go back over all that was written and reported at the time and tease out of that the actual facts to what happened and get to the truth of this disaster the mine had many levels we are told early on each is called by the depth underground so the ten levels are named by there actual depth underground depths of 142 meters on the first floor down to the tenth level at 525 so from a handful of accounts the report into what happened and old newspapers we follow the events of that day and after the company tried to brush the facts under the carpet when the fire broke out they said there were only ten people on the level the fire was and the started to close the mine down. But in reality there was many more victims of this disaster 87 men died only seven men lived and there is no account from them just the charred remains of the fellow miners brought up and the huge injustice that caused these men to die.

A Photo published on the front page of El Univeral on March 12 shows forty-eight people (perhaps more, the image is blurry in places). Most are women wearing shawls, accompanied by boys in hats and girls in shawls, They are starring at the camera, looking very serious. None of their faces display the scenes of desperation mentioned in the story accompaning the the photo.On either side, a few men also stared at the camera while other looked at the women. The caption reads ..” Those waiting outside the mine for their loved ones to emerge”

A newspaper reported the aftermath and its affect on the wives and children of those lost in the mine !!

This book looks at what happened a century later and picks the piece of what was known but also tries to give a voice to those that hadn’t a voice at the time those 87 men died when the mine was sealed without warning as the fire raged leaving them trapped to their doom and those seven that survived six days in this underground hell as their voices or testament was never heard at the time the horror of being there must have been haunted this is a great reportage on an event we need witness piece like this to remind the future if what happened in the past this is a short book but captures the effect aftermath cover-up from the mining company involved and lasting legacy of the El Bordo mining disaster on his hometown. An interesting addition to this year’s Spanish lit month.

A Beautiful young woman by Julián López

A beautiful young woman by Julián López

Argentinean fiction

Original title – Bien Pudiera Sex

Translator – Samuel Rutter

Source personal copy

Back to Spanish lit month and we return to Argentina and another new writer to the blog and another young talent not just as a writer where he has started a writers group Ciclo Carne which has a blog of the previous events. But he is also an Actor and poet as well. This was his debut novel and came out a few years ago. Like many other novelist from Argentina, he has chosen the rough years of the ’70s when people from all over the country and various walks of life disappeared. He has chosen a son who lost his single mother as the centre of this novel.

My mother was a beautiful  young woman. Her skin was pale and opaque. I could almost say it was bluish, and it had a luster that made it unique, of a natrual aristocracy, removed from mundane trivialties. He hair was black of course- I already said she was a beautiful young woman – her hair was straighht but heavy, and she wore it in a way I haven’t seen sin. I’m not talking about her hairstyle; no matter what she did with it her hair fell gracefully and in shape and always seemed tidily cut. I’m talking about the outline of her hair, of the linear sketch of that ocean of flexiable antennae rushing into the sea of her face.

The opening of the book and her hair so described on how it fell aroud her head.

The book starts with the son saying my mother was a beautiful young woman with pale skin this phrase is repeated as we see the son now a man as he tried to piece together his past a single mother devout to her son the little things like a weekly trip out to a posh place to eat he remembers what each of the places they ate served and how much he enjoyed each meal.  the brand of cigarettes his mother smoked and how she smoked those cigarettes through his child’s eyes it is a patchwork of memories he is trying to piece together in the present and he tries to think what happen why did she spend time with a neighbour such a lot was she up to something. The fear of things happen even in school there is a dark cloud floating over the head of those there as bomb threats and not knowing who to trust. So when he what to trace what happen we see the creeping feeling of doom in the world around him. As his mother tries to avoid it the terror of everyday world they live in is there for all to see. The horrors of those years.

on one of those afternoons. Uncle Rodolfo came over. It was a long time since I’d seen him, and he was different : his sideburns were thicker  and he’d let his moustache grow long. He pressed the doorbell  twice  and then after a while knocked on the aprtment door before the opening it with his keys, My uncle usually came over with a pile of Suchard chocolate blocks, one of each flavour, nd another pile of Milkybars , just as bif. I loved chocolate, and I loved how his visits providedme with this drug that made my mother mad and caused her to warn  me abiut toxic effects of devouring all the little blocks of chocolate and the Milkybars in one sitting. The theme of parasites was a serious one; my mother was firm and underwavering when she spoke of it

The brands are familar but his world is so different to mine of the late seventies growing up .

This is a book that has a fragmented style the narrative is that from the young boy as we see the world piece together it is just in snippets his mother doesn’t come to life but is there almost as a ghost in his memories of her and her habit. I have read a few books that also try to deal with this period of History from various angles like on the run from being disappeared to the view of another child and his father in the woefully underrated Patrico pron book my father’s ghost which I reviewed a  few years ago.  It is a dark time and this has a great child’s view of the time and of his mother but its those small details like her smoking that caught me and those days out they had before she didn’t return that day and his world changed. This is another great young writer from Argentina they seem to bring out writers and footballers although we are yet to have a good one of the later at United may I say lol. Have you read this book?

 

Fracture by Andres Neuman

Fracture by Andres Neuman

Argentinean fiction

Original title – Fractura

Translators – Nick Caistor and Lorenza Garcia

Source – review copy

It has been a while since I reviewed a book by Andres Neuman. I met him when his first book made the shortlist of the old IFFP and I was lucky to have got invited to the award and managed a  chat with him which was amazing as he was aware of my blog. Anyway, the years have passed and when I saw this was out I was pleased it was on I managed to get a review copy of. this his latest to be translated to English as for me he is one of those writers that I want to read all he has written over time.

An earthquake fractures the present, shatters perspective, shifts memory plates.

As soon as Watanabe sticks his head out , a torrent of feet engulf him, He takes a deep breath before emerging. He is still has the feeling that the world is swaying slightly, that every object emits the memory of its instability.

Fortunately, everything outside appears more or less in it place he hadn’t been at all sure of this. The force of the jolts made him fear the worst.

I loved this pasaged it captured te earthquke and Yoshies life in one.

So the premise of this book is based around two characters the first is a retired Japanese Executive Yoshie Watanabe. His life has a circle like quality to it there is the beginning where he was one of the few people to survive the bombings at Hiroshima and Nagaski. the story starts when the earthquake in 2011 and the disaster that hit the nuclear plant at Fukushima. This is the bases of the story as he has seen so much and had spent a lot of time abroad in his life trying to escape the first nuclear disaster he had saw and he lost his family along the way. He is contacted by Pinedo an Argentinean journalist wanting to hear about Yoshie’s life as a man that had lived to see both the Nuclear bombs of world war two but the disaster and fractured world of the 2011 Earthquake. Yoshie has been around the world trying to run from his past but in this journey, he had been in a place like Vietnam and Madrid when major events happened around him. He is a man that has enjoyed his life but was damaged to start with so the fractured way he tells his life is how he lived it.

It was around that time that Phil Ochs rook his own life. According to him, he had died a long time ago. Later it was revealed that the FBI kept a five-hundred-page file on his activites. It still considered him a dangerous individual even after hi death.

Just like the country, I began a new life. I met up again with Richard. I think we had always liked each other, but when he was available I was with someone else and vice cersa. We had unfinished buiness. Despite claiming to be a liberated woman, I hadn’t yet learned how to live alone. I avoided the grieving process by eagerly moving on to the next challenge. Which is part of me indentified with Yoshie in this?

Phil ochs the protest singer in the sixties one of those times Yoshie was there to see!!

This is a story of one man’s life that is told in fragments. Using the journalist connects the story to Andre’s homeland which Yoshie had spent time. He is a sort of dumb witness to the 20th century by chance that happened to be at the crucial place at crucial times as he stands on the line between being safe and in danger by Fukushima power plant as he visits the place at the request of the journalist.” Sit by my side, come as close as the air, Share in a memory of gray; Wander in my words, dream about the pictures That I play of changes” is a song by Pil Ochs mentioned in the book due to the CIA keeping a huge file on this protest singer this captures Yoshie a bit as we wander in his words and the world he lived !! A rare story of some from Japan traveling the world. Have you read this ?

Welcome to spanish lit month 2020

It has come round again this ishas been running since 2012 which actually I had chosen Enrique vila matas as a featured writer so it seems nice to return to him and also Javier Marias. Then in August we have Three trapped tigers by Guillermo Cabrera Infante. and recounting by Luis Goytisolo.

Here is a collection of links  to do with Spanish lit

I promised a few links for Spanish lit month –

El Mundo the best 25 books from Spanish 1989 (thanks Arcadia books for link their Blind sunflowers is on the List ,plus two books by Juan Marse that Maclehose is publishing soon .

Scauffi has a longer list here in Spanish a lot of Marquez on this one

The telegraph has ten best Latin American novels here,Not all Spanish but mostly

Flavourwire has another list without  Marquez of best Latin American fiction

and there is a few more links and lots of Spanish fiction on my co-host Richards Blog

You can also find many books here from Spain ,Chile ,Argentina and many others in my books read section.

Look forward to seeing what you choose !!

 

Fate by Jorge Consiglio

Fate by Jorge Consiglio

Argentinian fiction

Original title – Tres Monedas

Translators – Carolina Orloff and Fionn Petch

Source – Personal copy

Another gem from Charco Press. I didn’t get his first book from them Southerly. But ordered this the other week as it appealed. Jorge Consiglio has published four novels as well as Poetry and Short stories. He has won a number of prizes in his native Argentina and in Spain as well.  This is the second of his books to be translated into English. There is a great intro about the book by the writer where he mentions a woman that missed a train that crashed in Buenos Aires a crash in which 51 people died. This leads to a thought about Fate what is our fate and then he said whilst writing the book he was also watching and was drawn into the story of the film “The Third man”.

The Colombian disappeared into the subway Karl walked down Corrientes towards Pueyrredon. He was taller than everyone else. He crossed Uruguay Street and stopped short in front of a bookshop. His eye roved over the window display beofre he carrid on. Marina  Kezelman was turning forty in two weeks and he wanted a gift that would suprise her. They had met in a bar in Madrid a decade before. Everything had happened very quickly. Moved by desire and, above all, an extaggerated sense of honesty, they’d made their decisions.

KArl has no idea of what lies ahead here in his first chapter.

The book is two stories intertwined both are about relationships but one is starting that of Amer an up and coming taxidermist he is in a  therapy group where he falls for the younger than him Clara. This relationship is just beginning, But Clara is the one person in the book that is just told through the eyes of another Amer he has a view of her and you hope that the real Clara is near that or will Fate interrupt them ! then we have a relationship at the other end of the spectrum and that is  Karl an Oboist and his meteorologist wife Marina we meet her as she is trying to kill the ants in her house and her Son Simon. Then as the story unfolds in the short chapters that shift from one character to another Marina is having a fling with a work colleague Zarate. This leads to a violent scene that affects Karl’s oboe playing and reminds me of the sudden burst of violence that was in the third man which is the link to the whole story who was the third man when the body appears. Then later on in the book, there is another nod when the son Simon has a love of The Ferris wheel.

Clara also changed position – and subject. She talked about life after her separation. Dammed blessed happiness, she said. Amer put the kettle on again to prepare some more mate. They say beekeeping is good for reducing stress, Clara remarked. Amer felt as if he were watchoing a performance, but this impression didn’t weaken Clara’s words. She was silent for a few seconds.

Amer views clara through his rose tinted glasses.

This is a well-paced novel that follows two relationships but like a train, on the track, the fate of all those involves seems on a track the marriage breaking up, but also the workings of having a failing marriage what to do with Simon this is sort of a rerun for Karl as he has another child back in Germany from an earlier marriage. Then we have Amer a man that works very hard on his animals and maybe he is building a Clara like one of his dead animal the outside of them appears perfect but then he has worked her to be maybe more than she was. The nods to the Third man like Simon liking a Ferris wheel which of course is where there is a great monologue from Harry Lime. This follows four well five if you include Marina’s affair with Zurate over what are two of the hardest things starting a relationship making the right move what card has fate dealt you and then the break up of marriage but when that path is changed what happens when fate intervenes! Have you read either of his books ?

 

The Adventures of China Iron by Gabriela Cabezón Cámara

The Adventures of China Iron by Gabriela Cabezón Cámara

Argentinean  fiction

Original title – Las Aventuras de la China Iron

Translators – Fiona Mackintosh and Iona Macintyre

Source – personal copy

I had chosen on my own list of the books I wanted to see on the Booker longlist the book Loop was one from Charco I had already read, I have so far reviewed a number of books from Charo press over the last few years. including Die my love which made the longlist two years ago and I had reviewed the other book from Gabriela Slum Virgin. So when this made the list I got it straight away. This is her last novel to be published in Spanish and the second to be translated into English. This is a historic reframing of the Classic poem Martin Fierro which is considered an important work of historic Argentinean literature.

It’s difficult to know what you remeber, is it what actually happened? Or is it the story that you’ve told and re-told and polished like a gemstone over the course of years, like something that has lustre but lifeless as a stone? If it weren’t for my dreams, for the recurring nightmare I have where I’m a gruby barefoot girl again, with nothing to my name but a sweet little puppy and a few ragged clothes; if it weren’t for the thump I feel here in my chest, the tightness in my throat on the rare occasions that I go the city and see a skinny , bedraggled little creature hardly there at all; basicaly, if it weren’t for my dreams and the trembling of my body, I wouldn’t know what I’m tell you is true

The opening of the chapter wagon from China black about her journey!

The book takes a woman that could be Martin Fierro’s wife she has a husband that has left her behind like in the epic poem. Her name is China Iron(Fierro is Spanish for Iron). She has been left in a remote encampment so when she sees the chance to leave with an English woman who is heading off in a wagon the Woman Liz is a Scottish woman fierce in spirit. The two women and another rancher Rosario looking for fertile land for his cattle. The trio well the story soon ends up as the two women as we pass through the hinterlands of Argentina. We see the wonderful countryside which is wonderfully described. As the two women draw closer Liz teaches China about the Brtish empire as the head through the pampas and fort. Then they hit Indian territory as the women grow closer the is an awakening of other feelings in them both. Later on in the book to add a twist Martin Henradez the writer of Martin Fierro is added as a character. A book that adds a feminist angle to the Argentinean classic.  It also gives a voice to the LGBT characters at a time when they would haven’t been able to have a voice.

While the land grew into a whole globe in front of me, another world took shape on the wagon. Me, Liz and Estreya were a trinty, within a rectangle strating from the oxen,, one line along the roof, another at the trunk to the rear of the wagon and one running along the ground

“Only here in the pampa could a wagon create a birs eye view, observed Liz and so I found out what prespective was and noted that indedd, the few animal thst stand out on

Later on when the wagon is in the Pampas

I really liked Slum virgin and in parts, I loved this book we have in the shadow panel talked about it and I think a deeper knowledge of Martin Fierro is maybe needed especially later in the book which with its poetic [assages and the introduction of Hermandez mirrors the poem even more. Bolano also mentioned Fierro in his book the secret of evil that had a piece about it and Pynchon also referred to it in Gravity’s rainbow this work is the Argentinean Don Quixote it is at the heart of what makes the males in argentian what they are in a way so when Gabriela takes a side shoot at this work and reframes it around the woman left behind doing something similar to what Geraldine brooks did with her work March which swaps the classic Little women from the female narrative to the male narrative of Mr. March heading homing here Gabriela has done the opposite and taken a female narrative to a great male narrative and also add a twist of a love affair and set all this against the unspoiled background of 1872 Argentina and the wanting of British to come there add many threads to this work but I still felt Had I a deeper reading of the poem I had read the first couple of pages to get a feel of it but felt a closer reading would be required. Have you read this book?

The Fallen by Carlos Manuel Álvarez

The Fallen by Carlos Manuel Álvarez

Cuban fiction

Original  title – Los caídos

Translator – Frank Wynne

Source – review copy

I will for the next few days add a few books that might make the booker longlist later this week and here I start with a great debut novel from a Cuban writer that has written short stories and also contributed pieces to The BBBC, New York Times and Al-Jazeera. As well as co-founding an online magazine in Cuba. He was on that Bogota 39 list from a few years ago which has already produced so many great new voices from Latin and Central American. Here is one of my choice for the longlist as it has been wonderfully translated by Frank Wynne into English.

THE MOTHER

I’m alive and in my panties and my skin is yellow. I’, in a heap lying on top of the bed, the dirty sheets. By the time I finally get up, my arms are covered in goose bumps. I open the wardrobe, put on a housecoat and go into the kitchen. Afrmado is making coffee. His movements are slow and graceless, The way he holds the coffee pot, the way he turns on the gas, the way he strikes the match and holds on to the ring. He is so slow that his every action already contains within in its own repetition.

He looks at me and smiles and there is something in his smile that unsettles me. He ask me if I want coffee, I say yes, a little. I ask him how he slept and he says better than most nights. I asj him how he slept and he says better than most nights. I ask him if he had a dream and he say no. He says this as if I alreay know, but how could I know soemthing I have no reason to know ? I don’t ask any more questions

The line about his smile and what’s behind it hit me a lot.

This is a story of a family but what is great it takes the four members of the family the mother and father and there son and daughter. This is a family that is in the middle of a crisis is the mother who you feel is the glue of the family it turns out over the first few chapters she has started having a few health problems mainly a number of falls more than normal and increasing in frequency, This is described by her daughter as she just drops to the fall but after three occasions you sense her daughters worry. Her husband the father is worried stuck in an office job but not too high he also has a car he hates his Nissan is heavy on the fuel and he is always running out of fuel. This is a poor family as the son observes they hadn’t even a table at one point. There is an insight into the way people get money in Cuba a sort of reverse universal credit where the less your family had meant the more some got also maybe a tip of the hat to the corruption in the system. The father thou is also a man of honour as those other he knows to get on he sticks to the rules and isn’t one for bribes as the matriarch of the family is failing her daughter worries of life without her. The sin hates his father mainly for his standpoint in life to not take what he may see other take. A wonderful look into a family in the current Cuba where a family still struggles to have a table when poor and corruption just ripples under the surface.

THE DAUGHTER

The first time was five months ago, a muffled thud. The human body doesn’t sound like a vase shattering. It doesn’t sound like a crystal glass. It sounds like a sack of cement, like a thick, heavy dictionary. There was a spot of blood on a corner of the wardrobe. I noticed it straight away, Mama was lying on the floor, unconscious. There was a gash in her cheek like the hollow in an agave. I did everything you’re not supposed to do. I moved ger from where she was lying. I tried to put her in a different position. She was a dead wieght. She’s talll and heavy, and I couldn’t After three minutes, she started to stir and after a while she came round. We thought it was an isolated incident,but people think a lot of things.

HEr daughter describes those early falls she saw.

Fitzcarraldo has brought so many good books to us in recent years and this debut is another gem. It captures the family so well a family just getting by but now with his wife’s illness there is an impending doom in their also cracks of those things that within a family you sometimes bury until there is a shift in the power or a loss forthcoming that means cracks like those between the father and son appear. It is bare on names and details it is a description of a family coping with a vital member falling ill. the shifting voices remind me of the way the voices shift in Faulkners as I lay dying not as many voices but each voice add the narrative and the story. This technique of shifting the story around to see it from each family members point of view has also been seen a couple of times on soaps recently where we had a week of five perspectives of an event here it is the same four view of a woman failing and the feeling once that happens it will have a knock-on effect. An insight into family life for those scrapping by just in Modern Cuba. Have you read this book ?

Loop by Brenda Lozano

Loop by Brenda Lozano

Mexican fiction

Original title – Cuaderno ideal

Translator – Annie McDermott

Source – personal copy

I often think what has been great in the last ten years since I started the blog is those small publishers that fill gaps in the world of translated literature you didn’t know where there and here is a perfect example Charco press over the last few years have brought use dome of the most interesting and original writers from Latin America. Brenda Lozano has published two novels so far. She was another of the writers that back in 2007 made the Bogota 39 list. I do hope they keep making these lists from around the world you look at the list for Bogota and it has produced so many great books and this is one that like when I read the other Charco press book Fireflies.

At a dinner party when he was twenty one, Proust was asked some questions, Among them, what was his favourite bird was. The swallow, he replied. Proust didn’t invent the questions known as the “Proust Questionaire”, but his ansewers were so good they made the questionaire famous. Proust responded to the questionaireon two separate occasions. He was fifteen when he was asked his favourite colour. “THe Beauty is not in the colours, but in the harmony”. he said

At fifteen I still tought the electric pencil sharpener seperated me from adult life. If I’d neem asked my favourite colour I would have sain the colour of my blue pencil sharpener, but Proust’s favourite bird is alos my facvourite bird.

I like this passage and my favourite bird is a kingfisher the flash of them you glimpse is always a treat to see.

Loop is the narrative of an unnamed woman who is staying at home well recovering from an illness whilst her boyfriend is away for a trip too Spain. This isn’t a novel or a notebook more of doodling instead of random art this is a collection of random vignettes of a woman waiting for her man a musing on the world she inhabits. Thus we get wonderful nuggets around the Pessoa imaging ordering five drinks one each for his heteronyms. Lispector and here placing of the smallest woman in the land of pygmies from Central Congo. A piece on Proust and the question around his books, she imagines other writers’ versions of the questionnaire. All this is intertwined with her everyday life family and parties. Her love of notebooks and a growing feeling that she is becoming like Penelope in the Odyssey awaiting Odysseyus return. Even her mother emails saying she has seen the doctor and he said to visit and they love to see Jonas and her on his return from Spain and dealing with his mothers death. This passage is near the end and he still hasn’t come home.

“When will you be back Jonas ?” I’m not sure, he answered I was about to get up. He wrapped his arms around me and pulled me back to bed, and yes, we did it in the morning. Not another line without sayinfg it, I’m going ti say it right now: last year I had an accident I almost didn’t come back from and not long afterwards I discovered sex with Jonas, Good sex, I mean, In that order.

Sex and love. That order. The death of Jonas mum . My non death, That disorder.

Our narrator and her lover. Her past illness and Jonas Mum’s passing

This sits in that space between linear narrative and no narrative it has a progression our narrator lets slip nuggets of her life and a slow recovery her love for her absent man returned home to Spain for his ailing mother. Her hunt for the perfect notebook is her notebook but she loves notebooks. Loop is a patchwork of life titbits of this and that builds a picture of our narrator and the world around her. I was reminded of Duck Newburyport it has a similar digressive style of narrative that drifts here and there. We find the worries of living in the violent heart of Mexico I was reminded that had Bolano lived he would have captured the increasingly violent world of Mexico city. Add to that dwarves and David bowie and it is hard to see why I loved this book it is an example of what I said in the first passage of what I love around small publishers and that brings us books like this Fireflies and books like Flights from Fitzcarraldo and Panorama from Istros all play with the narrative style and what a novel is in this modern world.

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