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

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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 ?

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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?

The neighborhood by Mario Vargas Llosa

 

The neighborhood by Mario Vargas Llosa

Peruvian Fiction

Original title – Cinco esquinas

Translator – Edith Grossman

Source – Library book

I returrn to anpther writer that has featured on the blog a few times. Mario Vargas Llosa has won just about every award out there including the Nobel. He has written about twenty novels with all being translated into English. He has written in a varitey of styles over his years writing. This is his latest book and is an interesting view of how writers write in their later life. He has in his life tried to be president of his homeland when in the early 1990’s he ran for president only to get defeated by Alberto Fujimori. This book is set in the years after that election.

She didn’t say anything, but closing her eyes, she leaned to one side and found her mouth that had started to kiss and  gently nibble her neck, ears, and her hair. She raised her hands, held the braidm and ran her fingers through her friend’s hair, whispering “WIll you let ,me undo you braid? I want to see you with your hair undone and to kiss it, darling” Arms entwined, serios now, they left the terrace and , crossing the living room, dining room, and a hallway, came to Chabela’s bedroom

The Miami weekend and this is just not very convincing to me is it just me ?

The book follows a scandal but not the one you at first thing the books open when two female friends awaken after a party in the same bed and discover a sudden attreaction to one another Mariesa and Chabela become attract this culminates in a weekend away in Miami. Now the book then diverts to the offices and the editor of the scandal paper Exposed a man called Rolando Garro. Now this man is maybe worst than all we have seen in the UK muckrakers no this is a paper that just sets out to cause trouble. So when he comes to Enrique the husband of one of the two woman a welalthy industralist. This is the point you think it maybe be the girls no it is pictures of the man himself at an Orgy that Garro has shown him. So when Garro turns up dead havuing been beaten to death suspicion falls on Enrique as it does all the people featured in the rag over the last while. He is arrested now the other husband the rwo are best friends come to help his friend and avoid him falling into the hands of “the doctor” a character based on one of Fujimori’s henchman of the time that ran the intellegance service now these two men dislike him for the way he looks more than the fact he is a violent tortuture. Will the girls secret be found out , will the husband get free will the mruderer be found ?

When Enrique saw Rolando Garro walk into his office, he felt the same distance as the first time. Garro was dressed in the same clothing he has worn two weeks earlier, and he walked swinging his arms and coming down hard on his heels of his high platform shoes, as if wanting to come up in the world. he reached his desk – Enrique hadn’t stood to receive him – and extended the flaccid wet hand that Enriqye remembered with revulsion. It was ten in the morning: He was right on time for their appointment.

Garro a slimy man with no redeeming features like the worst of Fleet street rolled into one .

This isn’t his best book it hasn’ t the feel of earlier books like Aunt Julia which I read years ago. Or even somethung like Bad girl which he wrote ten years before this.. No this is partly a look back at those years when he could have been president. Would he have allowed eposed to carry on ? The doctor a henchman for his opponent and winner of the election is the bad next to Garro a man with no redemming features.. These character all work for me the Lesbian relationship just seemed a bit well like a man writing about what he may have loike to have seen two women he may have known at the time do. The blonde and the woman in Biegee is the way they are described. I have always put Llosa in the Pamuk and Saramago group of winners those that constantly write good but not great books each may have one or even two great books. This isn’t one of thos thou it is a late book of a great writer and in that it is a writer looking back at the time he could have made a difference in his country. In those parts it works and as ever Grossman makes the book flow. In others it is a bit weaker than his earlier books.

That was the month that was july 2018

  1. Skylight by José Saramago
  2. The shape of the ruins by Juan Gabriel Vásquez
  3. The Tunnel by Ernesto Sabato
  4. Op Oloop by Juan Filloy
  5. The Taker by Rubem Fonseca
  6. Sergeant Getulio by Joao Ubaldo Ribeiro
  7. They won’t take me alive by Claribel Alegria
  8. A map drawn by a spy Guillermo Cabrera Infante

I Managed eight books last month all for Spanish and Portuguese lit months. Which I have been running with Richard for a number of years . My month took me around Latin america mainly with two books from Argentina and Brazil. No new countries. One new piublisher Womans press published the Alegria book and it is the first from this press I have read. It means I have read 57 books this year well down on recent years.

Book of the month

Op Olloop by Juan Filloy An older novel from Argentina about a man obsessed with time and routines who’s engagement day goes horribly wrong when his schedules go awry. A witty and unusual book and a perfect example of why I read translated fiction.

Non book discovery

I not featured a film for a while and this Amanda and I watched the other day is about a man that haunts a house till it goes then tries to  end it only to get before the house was built and live it all again little dialogue clever use of music and lingering shots add to an air of a lost soul.

 

Map drawn by a spy by Guillermo Cabrera Infante

Map drawn by a spy by Guillermo Cabrera Infante

Cuban memoir

Original title – Mapa dibujado por un espía

Translator – Mark Fried

Source – Personal copy

I have long been a fan of Infante’s work it started when I read three trapped tigers fairly early on in the blog.I also review a view of dawn in the tropics both of these books showed different sides to the man as a writer and this shows another side. This follows a time after Infante had spent time in Brussels as a cultural attache  for three years from 1962 as he had fallen out of favor in the year before his posting with the Castro Regime, a piece about Cuban nightlife his brother had written (Three trapped tigers strikes me as a lament to the scene that died in the early Castro years). This starts when he returns to Havana for his mothers funeral.

He climbed the stairs and in the vestibule a sign suprised him:

Chapel C

Zoila Infante

Seeing her name in black and white, the reality of this mothers death hit home. Another flight of steps took him to chapel C and soon he was in the anteroom, which was filled with friends and acquaintances. He saw his father, smaller, shrunken astonshingly aged, emerging from the sweltering chapel and walking toward him.

“Come, so you can see her , the poor woman.”

“No, no.”

“come on you must. She’s laid out in there”

“No, no. I don’t want to, I don’t wamt to see her”

He returns and I think of the description of his father and the changes over three years is also for the country he has returned too.

‘The book follows the time he returns for his mothers funeral he intends to stay a week. He should known it might have been trouble when he had booked his flight there and back via Prague.  But then is told he can’t board his return flight and has to spend time in a Cuba that has much change in the three years he has been gone. His going was brought on by the early indications of what he found on his return and that is the cutting down of voices that only in little bits query the Castro regime. This is shown when he finds some of his editor friends have lost jobs and the way people are following new rules. As he sees the changes in the world around him as he meets a lot of his old friends this is the style of the book meeting events everyday life but this is what he sees changing the way his friends that remained or there almost Kafka worries of the world around them and what the regime is doing. This is a glimpse of Cuba in those early post-Castro years.

Titon spoke in a low voice, but freely nd frankly, without apparent concern for the waiters coming and goings. He described the situation the perscution of Homosexuals, the cultural coulcil’s imposed orthodxy, problems at the university. About the university he went on atsome length and recounted his personal experience : he  and two others from the film isitute attended one of the trials the student federation was holding of supposed counterrevolutionaries on campus. At the “trial” there were two accused, a boy and a girl. The jury was the audience.

This remind me of Kafka the way the world of his friends had changed in the three years he had been gone.

This is a flipside for me to three trapped tigers the atmosphere of three trapped tigers I said when I read it had a feel of jazz and the night. This has a different feel there is real tension in the world he sees his friends are changed it is as though he as returned and they have all been replaced with Kafka characters. The world he sees is one of rules and freedoms being cut and the uncertainty that brings to everyday life especially in his creative circle where simple things can be taken the wrong way. What was a brief week for his mother funeral turns into a Kafkaesque nightmare as he has to spend four months more in the New Cuba? I have two more books by Infante on my shelves and can’t wait to add them to the blog.

They won’t take me alive by Claribel Alegria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They won’t take me alive by Claribel Alegria

El Salvadorean biography

Original title – No Me Agarran Viva

Translator – Amanda Hopkinson

Source – personal copy

I move from Brazil and into Spanish lit from Central America. Claribel was born in Nicaragua but considered herself Salvadorean and was a driving force in central America woman’s literature she wrote ion many styles Poetry and Novels. She also wrote non-fiction and this book follows one of the female rebel leaders of the Guerilla war in El Salvador. Claribel also translated a lot of Poetry into Spanish particularly Rupert Graves. She also compiled one of the earliest collection of Latin American boom works  “New Voices of Hispanic America”.She also won the Neustadt prize.

It was 4 january. Only thirteen days ago. she had barely three and a half years to spend with Javier. They conversed intently while Ana Patrica played with her rag doll.

They had reviewed their seven years together, four of them spent in hiding. They remembered the threantened miscarriage and congratulated themsleves on the happy outcome, there in person and tugging at Eugenia’s hand that she come and take a look at a caged bird. Was it going to be the last goodbye?

From the opening chapter one fo the last meeting of husband and wife the caged bird mademe think of Maya Angelo poem.

I was pleased to have found this old woman’s press copy of this book. The book follows the life of a Female Guerilla leader one Commander Eugenia a female leader that inspired her fellow female freedom fighters. Claribel follows her life from her early years her father died when she was and looking after her sister as the eldest of the three. One of her sisters recalls her taking her to see the slums. Her parents were Christians and had fled from Nicaragua when Ana (Eugenia real name). We see her being drawn to the parties that oppose the government and then into the guerilla movement. She meets her partner Javier. They also had children we see as she crosses the countryside in just her sandals. Even working whilst she was pregnant. We follow her life on the run through her comrade’s eyes and reportage of what she did. A story of a woman who fought for her cause and gave her life for it.

My mother has a very strong character, and Eugenia inherited this from her. My mother never became overwhelmed in the face of difficulties.There is a inherent contradiction in this. People would say to us :”Your mother is a widow and you have to help her out”, but the the truth of the matter is that she would never be helped. She ran the buisness all on her own. Previousluy, during the daytime, Eugenia used help her, and at nught she completed the shores and studied. Later ion she abandoned the income producing work and carried on with the housework and attending University.

I spent several months with my mum but from then on we were committed to the revolutionary struggle. Ondina was still at school. I left home, I really wasn’t capable of maintaining the buisness, and we had skills more relevant to the people.

Marthe Eugenia sister saying her mother had the same grit as her sister did that drove them all forward.

I am a pack rat when it comes to books. I am a devil for second-hand bookshops as I am always wanting to find books like this lost gems. The conflict in El Salvador is a conflict I remember from my youth. I find it strange how much our news coverage has shrunk over the last few decades we used her a lot more about conflicts like this one. This is a well-drawn account of one woman but in her account is a reflection of a hundred or thousand other women that took arms in the Guerilla wars that swept across Central America through the later part of the 20th century. It shows the journey of many people from events in the childhood that made her poltical. The cause that drew her further in the man she met that shared her cause. I was touched by her story.

Sergeant Getulio by Joao Ubaldo Ribeiro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sergeant Getulio by Joao Ubaldo Ribeiro

Brazilian fiction

Original title – Sargento Getulio

Translator – Curt Meyer-Clason

Source – personal copy

I again am in Brazil and another tale involving Police this time it is a tale of a military policeman. The writer like Rubem Fonseca is one of the best known Brazilian writers. Joao Ubaldo Ribeiro was first a journalist whilst he studied law. But in the mid-sixties had to leave Brazil for a year Then on his return to Brazil he at first lectured in Political science. Then he chooses to become a writer. This book was his second book and he went on to write many more before his death in 2014 at which time he was considered one of the greatest Brazilian writers. This book was made into a film.

Even now that I’ve lost some authority I still have my influence. I habe good backing back in the capital city of Aracaju and my name isn’t Getulio if I’m to give it up all of a sudden. Espeacially after delivering you. There is some good feeling for you in Aravaju, people in you favour. One of tjose things. I don’t liike this assignment, I don’t like to escot prisoners. It puts you out of face. After I take tyou there I’ll set up my quarters somewhere and give up this footloose life.

He hartews this last job and it shows how fragile his postion is as the man has friends in the City as well.

The book takes the form of a monologue. The main monologue is that of Sergeant Getulio as he heads to the backwaters of Brazil for what is his last job and that is to fetch a prisoner a local political leader a conservative politician that has been ordered to be brought to the city of Aracaju. The man is accused of a bombing. What we see over the course of the book is the volatile politics of the time as the man situations changes halfway through the journey when the government is overthrown. But the Sergeant decides to carry on regardless and ignore those order that tells him to release the prisoner. Getulio is a man of his word and will take the prisoner he is also a violent man that has killed and has committed much violence in his career as we see in flashbacks over his life in the stream of consciousness. He also dreams of his children and what they will do a world full of people with a similar resolve to him.

I never thought I was going to behead the Lieutenant, at least I never thought about it clearly , I mean , I never said “Getulio, lets cut off this nuisance of a lieutnants head.” I hadn’t even noticed he was a lieutenant until he came near, but I also saw that he was more of a bastard than anything else.

A short thought about when he killed the lieutenant I loved the line of him being a bastard and him not seeing the rank at first.

Another violent book the man character of this at one point cuts a superior officers head off for trying to stop him doing his job. That is the sort of man he is below the violent he is one that when given his order must do it. In a way, I was reminded of an interview with a German army officer in world war two that tried to take Berlin when ordered to do so the same blind action is here but unlike that soldier, this one won’t finish his job so he delivers the prisoner to the city he has been ordered too. There is a strange feeling as at times in the narrative as thou they are stuck in their own world away from the outer world. It seems like these two men locked in the journey to nowhere really. It is a view of the everchanging world that was Brazilain politics at the time which lead to Ribeiro himself spend time outside Brazil. The book shows how one man can be both violent and honorable to his own beliefs at the same time. Getulio is a man struggling to be a hero. this is a wonderful Modernist novel from Brazil from a writer considered one of the best writers of his time.

 

The taker by Rubem Fonseca

 

The Taker and Other Stories

The Taker by Rubem Fonseca

Brazilian short stories

Translator – Clifford E Landers

Source – personal copy

Well, I’m suffering from the weather as it has sapped my mind and made me not read a lot in the last week.I am trying to read early in morning and late at night. Anyway I now stop at Brazil this Spanish and Portuguese lit month and one of the best known Brazilian writers. Rubem fonseca studied Law then became a policeman in Rio many of the police characters in his books are drawn from his time in the Police. He then spent time US being sent to study US police techniques. He then decided to become a writer full time.He is best known for his shprt stories and a collection of books about a lawyer. Mandrake one of his main characters ab amoral Lawyer that has been made into a tv series by HBO.  He has won many prizes the Biggest the Premio Camoes is considered like a Portuguese Nobel prize. Fonseca himself became friends with Thomas Pynchon and like Pynchon has rarely been interviewed and has maintained his privacy.

Betsy waited for the man to return to die.

Before the trip he had noticed that Betsy was unusally hungry. Then other symptons emerged: excessive drinking of water, urinary Incontinence. Betsy’s only problem till then was the cataract in one of her eyes. She didn’t like to go out , but before the trip she had unexpectedly come into the elevator with him and the two of them had strolled along the sidewalk by the beach something they had never done.

Betsy waiting fot the man to return the opening lines .

The taker has 13 stories. I will mention a few  of the stories that I really liked. As for the whole the collection it  shows the brutal nature of Rio.  Where every day can be a struggle for some people living on the edge. We also see how violent the city can be. The first story I will mention is Betsy as for me it was a little different to the other stories as it remind me of the way Roal Dahl would leave a twist to the ery end of the tale here we see what we at first see as a woman dying waiting for an unnamed man to come home and then her last evening. Only in the last few words of the story you get a real twist that makes think. Then in the opening story we see a buisnessman arrive home his wife wants things his kids want things next thing is he is out in his car and heading striaght at someone. Then later we have a police like account of what happened when a cow is hit on a bridge and we see the local poor people running to cut up the dying cow. elsewhere we have serial killers a man trying to find his past that others would rather he had forgotten.

Early on the morning on May 3 a brown cow was crossing the brigdge over the Coroado river, at marker %£, in the direction of Rio deJanerio.

A passenger bus of the Unica auto Onibus firm, license plates RF-80-07-83 and JR-81-12-27, was crossing the Coroado bridge in the direction of Sao Paulo

When he saw the cow, the driver, Plinio Sergio, tried to avoid hitting it . He collided with the cow and then the bus hit the side of the bridge and plunged into the river .

On the bridge the cow was dead.

The report of an incident this could almost have been a police report theat Fonseca maybe wrote himself at some point.

Now I knew this would be a great collection as how often do you get a Pynchon quote on the cover of a book he says “Each of Fonseca’s books is not only a worthwile journey: it is also, in some ways, a necessary one. There is a sense of the policeman sat times in tthe clipped nature of Fonsecas prose that police report style that over time sees them cutting to the bone of the matter. The stories show the acts also he does have a clever way of twisting a tale like Betsy where it isn’t to the last few words the story is turned on its head.  This is a man rasing the torch tothe city he had spent most of his life in Rio this isn’t the glamor of copacabana this is the side streets the  poorer areas of town. He has a way of opening the door on the darker side of life from a man randomlly running some one over to the man that just takes what he wants. The taker is one of those collections that isn’t for every one but if you want see the real side of Rio in its fully brital nature this will appeal to you.

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