Elegy for Joseph Cornell by Maria Negroni

Elegy for Joseph Cornell by Maria Negroni

Argentinian fiction

Original title -Elegia Joseph Cornell

Translator – Alison A. deFreese

Source – personal copy

Here we have another great female writer from Latin america the Poet Maria Negroni had translated the bio of the artist Joseph Cornell written by Charles Simic. She had won a Guggenheim award and a pen award for her poetry as one of the best books when it was translated into English. What she has done is a tribute and elegy to the artist that defies genre it is prose biography poetic all in one almost like his boxes where a collection of found pieces that fit together when put together. Another gem from the Dalkey archive literature series who else would bring out a book that is only 90 pages long and probably is less than that when the space in the book is removed.

Notes for a short Biography 1

The man loved getting lost in the city in which he lived. He was born at 1:13pm. From a blue heart insofe a seashell that someone had left in a hotel room. We know that his mother loved to playing the piano and that his father sold fabric, that several children lived in the house – including one that was paralytic – and that they all played together on Utopia Parkway. These were earthly games with the semblance of prayers – as are all games – and children threw themselves into their play as if they were magians and trapeze artist or flea trainers in the mythical circus of their yout. The children had grown now, and the man worked alone in the basement.

The first of a number of small bio snippets the reference to his brother he looked after all his life and the solitary adult he became

This is a collection of vignettes poetic pieces that flow between a bio of Cornell life snippets such as his love of wandering the city he loved New york comparing him to other great Flaneurs such as Baudelaire, Nerval, and Proust.His single solitary lifestyle a man that to many was an enigma.The grey man of New York a solitary figure wandering the streets, The second thread is around his paintings and his avant-garde films. The little vignettes that either describe the film or are an ode to those famous pieces of his like Children’s party, the Aviary A third thread is a tribute to his collecting items a list of things he owned. This is one of those books that is hard to describe itis a tribute to a unique man with a work that is a patchwork of styles.

The Duchamp Dossier

It’s a cardboard box in which, for years, Joseph Cornell collected small keepsakes from his friendship with Duchamp, The box contained 117 items of various types. The French artist empty tobacco pouch, two cleaners for his famous white pip, a napkin from Horn & Hardart(one of those automats that was all the rage in the 30’s and where they almost certainly met), letter, photographs, postcard of the mona lisa, several yellowed notes in his handwritin, gallery posters and even dry cleaning receipts which reveal Duchamp’s unusal habit of sending evertything to the dry cleaner, even sock and handkerchiefs

The box was put on display for the first time in 1998, on the occasion of the Joseph Cornell/Marcel Duchamp: In resonance exhibition held in the Philadelphia Musuem of art.No one can explain how Cornell managed to acquire such “Mementos”

A piece about a box , but  nod to his habit of eating junk food all his life such as Automat cafes

I was aware of Cornell mainly through reading up on Jonas Mekas the last few years a filmmaker Avant Gardelike Cornell that knew Cornell and inherited his work when he died. At the heart of this book is the man Cornell a man who wanders New york finding collecting items to use art at some future point. The book is a journey a walk through his life but we only pick a few snippets of his life this is his box. The box for Joseph Cornell is a collage to the man a mix of style and genres. If you like Cornell this will appeal to you if you are a fan of experimental fiction this would appeal to you.

Winstons score – A+ these are the gems I write this blog for books that challenge us as a reader and defy genre !!

 

The Dangers of Smoking in Bed By Mariana Enriquez

The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enriquez

Argentinean fiction

Original title – Los peligros de fumar en la cama

Translator – Megan Mcdowell

Source – Personal copy

I’m back on with the last few Booker International prize books with the shortlist been announced yesterday, the shadow jury will announce our shortlist in due course. One of the things I have really enjoyed the last few years is the emergence of a new generation of Latin American writers and in that, we have a lot more female writers to read than there were when I started Winstonsdad. This is the second collection to be published but as is the way in the world of translated literature this was actually the first book of stories to be published by Marian Enriquez. She studied journalism and Rock Journalism and was a fan of Stephen King and HP Lovecraft when growing up.  Both masters of the Horror short story. She has also written four novels her last won one of the Major book Prize the Herralde Prize.

I found the bones after the rainstorm that turned the back patch pof earth into a mud puddle. I put them in a bucket. I used for carrying my treasures to the spigot on the patio where I washed them. I showed them to Dad. He said they were chicken bones, or maybe even beef bones, or else they were from some dead pet someone must have buried a long time ago, Dogs or cats. He circled back around to the chicken because before, when I was lttle, my grandmother used to have a copp there.

What are the bones who are they ?

This collection opens with a Will Oldham quote which to me was a sign I would like these stories. When the collection opens with the spirit of a dead baby after the bones are found by a granddaughter in the grandmother’s garden. These stories all hark back to those dark years of the Junta and Dictatorship. So we have teen girls using an ouija board to try and talk to those they have lost. I loved the opening of this story as it mentioned the Band Slayer who my best friend is a huge fan of this is a nod to those classic horror genres of teen girls horror films and Metal music a nod to the times. Then I was reminded of a book I read earlier this year by another story in the collection when those children that disappear start reappearing which reminded me of the Novel A luminous republic which had a group of list children suddenly reappearing this is another classic horror story and movie. The rest of the stories all have classic nods to the horror genre and a look at the times they are set in especially the abuse of Girls which crops up in a number of the stories a powerful collection.

At that age there’s music playing in your head all the time , as if a radio were transmitting from the napoe of you neck, inside your skull. Then one day that music starts to grow softer, or it just stops.When that happens, you’re no longer a teenager. But we weren’tthere yet, not even close, back when we talked to the dead. Back wthen, the music was at full blastand it sound like slayer, Reign in blood .

We started the Oija board at Polack’s houser locked in her room. We had to do it secret because Mara, the Plack’s sister was afraid of ghosts and spirits. She was afraid of everything – man, she was a stupid little kid.

The last story in the collection.

Like the later collection Enriquez, she is a master of the Horror Genre I used to read a lot of Stephen King stories in my teens and she has lifted the lid on the dark corners of the human souls and the darkest of times in her homeland this is like a collection of testaments to that time this is a theme I see cropping up time after time in a lot of literature from Argentina it seems the time has come to look back and try and piece apart what happened. This isn’t a collection that sits easily with the read no it is dark and brutal at times may be less polished than her later collection it is still worth reading. A mix of the macabre, folklore, and the dark of the times. Let’s hope her novel is as good when it comes out next year in English Our share of the Night the one that won the Herralde Prize.

Winstons score – B+  a dark collection

The Imagined Land by Eduardo Berti

The Imagined land by Eduardo Berti

Argentinean fiction

Original title – El país imaginado

Translator – Charlotte Coombe

Source – personal copy

I have had this on my shelves a couple of years and when I was looking for something that maybe had a love story or romance at its heart this struck me as a contender. It is written by the French-based Argentinean writer Eduardo Berti A cultural Journalist based in France he was elected to the Oulipo group of writers being the first writer from Argentina to be elected to the group. He also works as a transxlator he=aving translated works from Alberto Manguel and Romesh Gunesekera. He has published 15 books of novels and short stories over the last thirty years.

ON the first day of the new year, my father was in such a good mood that he was hardly recognisable; he was usually so moderate, so restrained. He saw that there sun, that the air was fresh, and there wa no threat of clouds on the horizion, of the “corner of the sky” as my grandmother used to call it. This all seemed to be a good omen, since nothing was more desirable for the chu-yi than a crystal clear dawn, Shortly after, at midday, he reminded ius enthusiastically that in the evening we would be joined for dinner bt tje family of his friend Gu Xiangong, who lived about a two hour drive away by car from our city. This was a dangerous ambigous distance

Thy had three daughters the visits why are they coming to visit the family.

This book is set in CHina pre reveloution in a small city we view the life there through the eyes of Ling she is 14 and nurses her grandmother as she says her parents don’t trust him to nurse her. The Grandmother is old and has a great collection of old books that she  has read to her grandchildren especially her granddaughter. The book are to be taken out to stp insects eating them she is told by her father this is something that Ling does herself as her brother isn’t bother this isall part of some old ideas and pratices that her father has that make them seem out of time to those around them. But when pone day they are visited by a local family as there daughter Xiaomei as her brother future bride but the young 14 year old ling is dumbstruck by the beauty of this girl and then decides to befriend her as the two meet in the park over time. This is also intersped with Ling talking with her grandmother who has now passed about what she is feeling and her grandmpther spirit is a guide for her. The two girls discuss going ona run , her brother admits he is in love with a different girl will she be found a husband were will the love take them all and what do the do to follow there parents wishes.

Give me your hand, said Xiaomeri, and I did

Interlacing her fingers with mine, she formed one hand using both out hands and guided it  into the basket. We clumsily grabbed the first piece of paper within our reach.

Xiaomei unfolded the paper to reveal a melon

We will have lots of children,Ling ! she said, laughing.

We laughed even more, however, when before we saiud goodbye, she unfoilded all the pieces of paper to tecveal the drawings melons, melons, nothing but melons.

The two girls grow close as they meet in a park !

If you have followed this blog for any time you know I am a huige fan of fiction set in villages or small city that have a real sense of place  as they have that air of being caught in amber in at times and here is a village that is looking far back to tradition in the values like buying a blackbird the book starts with a blackbird and ends with the vchaning as the bird seller isn’t in the ,market anymore the book is set in the twenties and follows ling to the edge of the reveloutin through the Japanese ocupation. It is obvious as I read in an interview with Berti this China in the book is a mix of real and inmagined China the china of the west the way we like to view it but I was remind fo the documentry channel four showed years ago Beyond the clouds which showed small villages that like this city had got lost in time. That had like this place missed the call of time touched by the modern world like when Ling talks about watchiong films especially of the silent film star Ruan lingyu who died young but was called the Greta garbo of China for the emotions she showed in her film. Ling says Xiaomei is even more beautiful this is a tale of the first love not sexual but of attraction and the blossoming of a young girl struggling with who she is !! Then there is her and her brother struggles to conform with their parents and try and keep the family traditions and values alive. If yoiu like books like Reef where coming of age is mixed with the scenery of a place and spirt this mixes the spirit of the small village. Ann interesting book of a place long gone from a new writer to the bog Have you read anything by Him? Happy Valentine’s day all !!

Holiday Heart by Margarita Garcia Robayo

Holiday Heart by Margarita Garcia Robayo

Columbian fiction

Original title – Tiempo muerto

Translator – Charlotte commbe

Source – personal copy

I add a few books to my TBR that I felt maybe in line to make the man booker list that I hadn’t been sent just to get a leg up so here is the second novel to be translated into English by the prize-winning Columbian writer Margarita Garcia Robaye that has been brought out by Charco press that has been bringing out some wonderful books from Latin America the last couple of years. Born in Cartagena on the coast of Columbia she won the prestigious Casa De Las Americas prize for her book worse things. She currently lives in Argentina.

Ar around 5 p.m. he received an email from Gionzalo and Elisa – Gonzaloandelisa@gmail.com- invinviting them over fro a barbecue. They lived nbext door and they saw them often but not particularly close friends. He bumped into Gonzalo most days when they each took out the rubbish to the bim they shared, halway between two houses. The bin was a bit further away, so they walked that stretch together as they discussed the news. usually terrorism, They talked about Isis, Boko haram, Hezbollah and the FARC as of discussing the performance of different soccer teams. He couldn’t recall how this had become their go-to-subject, but they’d kept it up for years, This was handy for Pablo because it allowed them to dance around more delicate subjects such as the fact that Gonzalo, a while back, had stuck his hands up Pablo’s sister’s skirt

There friends afre most latin American but it seems strange that talk could be about anything but Covoid nowdays.

What this book does is dissects a relationship falling apart a marriage dissolving. The heart of the book is a Columbian couple living in the US Pablo and Lucia. Maybe at the heart of what the problem is the way they have adapted to the change of Homeland Pablo is still feeling drawn to his homeland and keeping his identity whereas his with it seems has never really felt at home. They have made a life with their twins but even then Lucia takes the front foot on how the kids are raised. They have split and then Pablo ends up in Hospital with what is called Holiday heart and this it seems is a condition that is caused by over living so when at Christmas people overeat and drink it cause temporary heart issue. Pablo trying to write that epic novel of his homeland whilst his wife writes a piece about their life in the US this is what seems to be the heart of the problem one moving one-way one moving another way. This so the view of both outdated racism that hasn’t changed since their time in the US. Pablo is a man of his homeland he likes to womanize in a way he could have been a character from a Marquez novel. This is an insight into a marriage falling apart bit by bit and looking at how and why?

That night , after they’re all showered and fed, Lucia logs onto Skype and calls Pablo so the kids can say hello. It’s hard to get full sentences put of the children, but they tell him, as best they can about the seaweed, the brunch, their bodies burried in the sand, Then they started yawning and Lucia sends them off to their twin beds, in the room Cindy had decorated with iold stuffed toys she found in the apartment, left over from a previous life.

“They’re shattered” she say. She is sitting at the table. The sounds of the waves drifts through the open balcony door. Pabli is wearing the same dressing gown he had on when she left. She wonders if he even showered

HEart breaking in place I remember my parent divorce diffferent circumstances but the loss of time over the years.

This is an interesting look at how the immigrant life can strain but also changed people over time what has happened is they have moved in two ways Lucia although they live in a sort of Latin American bubble with there friends and family she has settled and maybe it seems never felt settled in her younger life whereas Pablo writing about his home maybe has more of a Columbian heart than a holiday heart as he has left but still lives there in his heart he drinks to much and cheats frequently as his marriage falls apart this is told with an honest eye on events. Has he a real heart problem or is it just the bitter dregs of a marriage? WE see they should be apart but it is the time and the twins that kept them going as an observer those cracks seem so much wider than they would in the bubble of a marriage.  Have you read this book what did you think of it?

When we cease to understand the world by Benjamin Labatut

When we cease to understand the world by Benjamin Labatut

Chilean  fiction

Original title – Un verdor terrible

Translator – Adrian Nathan West

Source – review copy

I’m late to this it has already been on a couple of year-end lists in the papers I have seen. itis described as a non-fiction novel. To me it is a digressive work the like I have read by another Spanish language writer Augustin Mallo who also uses scientific facts and history in his stories. Benjamin Labatut own Life story is as interesting Born in Rotterdam he grew up in Hague, Buenos Aires, and Lima a real mix of places. He has had two works of fiction out and this is his first book to be translated into English and he has called it a non-fiction Novel.

In a medical examination on the eve of Nuremburg trials, the doctors found the nails of Hermann Goring’s fingers and toes stained a furious red, the consequence of his addiction to Dihydrocodeine, an analgesic of which he took more than one hunderd pills a day. William Burroughs described it as similar to heroinm twice as stong as codeine, but with a weird coke like edge, so the north American doctors felt obliged to cure Goring of his dependency before allowing him to stand before the court. This was not easy.When the allied forces caught him, the Nazi leader was dragging a suitcase with more than twenty thpusand dosesmpartiically all that remianed of Germany’s production of the drug at the end of the second world war.

The opening  stry and lines of the book grab you straight away.

I see this as a collection of interlinking essays or stories somewhere in between. It starts with Prussian blue which starts with the Addicted medication Dihydrocodeine that Goring took in large quantities with resulting effects on his body and the writer William Burroughs took over the years and he compared it to heroin. as he used it on mass the story winds around a mix of history and little stories. Till we get to the invention of the color Prussian Blue. The favorite of this collection is The heart of the heart which has at its heart Mathematicians tales starting with the Japanese blogger Schinichi Mochizuki whose 600-page thesis on the proof of him solving A+B+C a thesis which no one has understood to this point this leads to one of the best-known Mathematician Alexander Grothendieck a man who won the fields medal and was a leading thinker of his time but he withdrew from the world and started to live like a hermit in France racing around the countryside in a Hurst he published a 1000 page autobiography about his time in the maths world a piece that showed how everyone he had been connected with had used him to launch their own careers this work is being translated into English and struck me as a singular work.I will let you discover the tales and journeys in this book.

“The great turning point” was the term Grothendieck used to decribe the change in the direction of his life during his forties. ALl at once, he found himself swept up by thespirit of the age: he became obsessed by ecology, the military industrial complex and nuclear proliferation. To his wife’s despair, he founded a commune at home, where vagabonds, professiirs, hippes, pacifists, theives nuns and prostitutes dwelt side by side .

He became intolerent of all comforts of bourgeois life; he tore up the carpets from the floors of his house, considering them superfluous adornments, and began to make his own clothign; sandals from recycled tires, trousers sewn from old burlap sacks.He stopped using a bed, instead sleeping on a door torn from its hinges.

THe change in his life views that changed Alexander Grithendieck into a hermit over the years and withdraw from life.

I lived this I am a huge fan of digressive books since reading Sebald in my twenties I am always after books that break the mould that drifts from here to there stories we know titbits or as I remember Irwin’s character in The history boys calls it gobits those little gems we have heard but have forgotten or have never been written down from how Goering dies or we discovered Prussian blue this takes us through those gobits of the science world. I discovered Alexander Grothendieck an interesting figure that I had never heard of and this is what I love about these books they are the journey of the mind and you set sail and discover new ports to try at a later date historic figures pieces of history. This is a voyage through science wonderfully entertaining and engaging it is well-paced. A new writer to the blog and one I will be reading again. Have you tried this book?

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 ?

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