Ramifications by Daniel Saldaña París

Ramifications by Daniel Saldaña París

Mexician Fiction

Original title – El nervio principal

Translator – Christina MacSweeney

Source – personal copy

I’m rather late starting this month’s Spanish lit month well I have started with another Charco press book before I get to the week one book of a perfect cemetery. I have both the books that have been translated by Daniel Saldaña París into English which is the reason I decided it was time to read one of them. He has been in the list of the best Mexican writers that came out in 2017 and the Bogota 39 list of the best writers under forty from Latin America. He started with three poetry collections and then has written four novels two of which have been translated into English. This book follows one man looking back on his childhood as he is laid confined to a bed.

Teresa walked out one Tuesday around midday. I can’t remember exactly which month, but it must have been either the end of July or the beginning of August , because ,y siter and I were still on H=holiday. I always hated being left in the care of Mariana, who systematically ignored me for the whole day, barricaded in her bedroom with the music playing at a volume that even to me a boy of ten, seemed ridiculous. So that Tues, I resented it when, Mumgot up from the table after lunch and announcecd she was going out “look after your brother, Mariana”, she said in a flat voice , that was the way shegenerally spoke, with hardly any intonation, like a computer giving instructions or someone on qutismspectrum(Even mow, when no one else is around, I sometimes imitate her, and it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that writing this is, in some form, an effort to find an echo of that monotone voice in the written world).

The opening lines and his mother walking out in 1994

This is a novel that our unnamed Narrator traces a man’s childhood as he tries to piece together what happened in his youth when his mother Teresa  just left him and his sister and father on a Tuesday. As our narrator tries to piece together the past.why his mother just left to join the Zapatistas and left them with a father who is distant a man that struggles to cope. Our narrator becomes obsessed with origami which he did to occupy time but also made him a quiet boy as his 10-year-old mind fills the gaps, but it also meant he grew into a quiet lonely man. So in the story, as he recalls this we question what we remember as now 32 he is laid in a bed the family bed that his father had passed away from a few years earlier. It is that he is sorting through his family’s papers as he learns some truths that have struck him down. he is unable to get out of bed. So he thinks of the time in 1994 when this all happened. It is a story of growing up with a huge void in one’s life but it also questions how we remember our lives when we are so young what do we recall is it colored by what we read and saw at the time. It is a book about coming of age amidst the chaos that was Mexico at the time when a man that is a reclusive soul looks back at what may be made him that way all the years ago.

My attempts at origami grew worse by the day, or at least that was my impression. Beforethe mastering the crane and the frog, I launched unto more complex figures. The result; unrecognisable lumps of paper that had been folded and unfolded too many times (Pper has that drawback; it’s made to remember all our errors, whether it’s when writing on it, as I do noe, or when folding and unfolding it, as I did then.)

His hobby shuts him of from the world but is maybe the way he remebers the past fold by fold but are they in the right order !

This is one of those books that hasn’t a lot of plot but a lot of how the world was for one small boy as the action flicks between the action of the past and the present it is a  book about what makes our memories of these timelines twist at times as we see how the present can ooze into the past. I enjoyed the pieces where he recalled the world cup in 1994 which I remember as at the time I was living in Germany as was visiting the Uk with my German partner at a time shortly after some of the events in the book when Bulgaria that had earlier played Mexico knocked out the germans. like is origami this is trying to fold the past into a swan or something without missing the folds memories fade and get blend with what we learn after them this is what we learn here. A story of a lonely boy as a lonely man piece together his past.

Winstons score – B A strong story of childhood recalled after the space left by a mother that has gone !

That was the month that was June 2021

  1. The woman in Valencia by Annie Perreault
  2. Blind man by Mitja Cander
  3. The passenger by Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz
  4. Red Milk by Sjón
  5. Lamentations for 77,297 Victims by Jiri Weil
  6. Eulogy for the living by Christa Wolf
  7. The cheap eaters by Thomas Bernhard
  8. To The Warm Horizon by Choi Jin-Young

Well, I managed 8 books this month Which has taken me to the halfway point of the year with 54 books reviewed which is well on course for the 100 I hope to review this year well this months journey start with a woman haunt by a death that happened in a split second of her life but has a huge impact. Then a man struggles with his sight loss as his homeland stumbles in the post-communist world. THen a man tries to escape the closing net of Nazisism around him just after Krsytalnight will he get away. Then A man gets drawn into a group of Neo Nazis and winds up dead on a train in England after following the trial from Iceland of the Nazis. Then a lament for all those lost Jews in the war from Czechslovakia a new publisher for the blog as well with the Modern Czech classics from Karolinum press. Then one of Germany’s greatest writers struggles with her childhood in Nazi Germany. Then a man is drawn by a group of men eating the cheapest things on the menu in Vienna as he struggles writing his thesis. Then a group of Koreans try and find a new place in a world after a Virus has wiped out all the world.

Book of the month

The Cheap eaters by Thomas Bernhard

A novella by the great Austrian writer long out of print back in a new translation that sees us enter the world of the Cheap eaters and what brought them out and made them eat the cheap meals.

Non book events

I watched one of Ken Loach’s latest films” Sorry we missed you ” the story of a couple struggling to get by in the new gig economy selling the family car to get a van to makes deliveries as a franchise but this shows the worst side of this new way of working all day every day that doesn’t give them the freedom we felt they would get as they get caught up in fines for missed jobs and lost equipment. We had a weekend away only up the road from us in Matlock but it was with Amanda’s family for a family celebration it was nice catching up with family. I got a number of records from the likes of Sufjan Stevens, Birdland, Will Oldham, and Mark Eitzel a mix of styles.

This month coming

it is Spanish lit month I hope to start with a Central American novel from Mexico about a son who lost his mother when she walked out on him and his dad then I have the first of our two reads. I have the two read-along works and hopefully a couple more books from Portugal I hope this month.

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.

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