The Adventures of China Iron by Gabriela Cabezón Cámara

The Adventures of China Iron by Gabriela Cabezón Cámara

Argentinean  fiction

Original title – Las Aventuras de la China Iron

Translators – Fiona Mackintosh and Iona Macintyre

Source – personal copy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Later on when the wagon is in the Pampas

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

The Fallen by Carlos Manuel Álvarez

The Fallen by Carlos Manuel Álvarez

Cuban fiction

Original  title – Los caídos

Translator – Frank Wynne

Source – review copy

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

THE MOTHER

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

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

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

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

THE DAUGHTER

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

HEr daughter describes those early falls she saw.

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

Loop by Brenda Lozano

Loop by Brenda Lozano

Mexican fiction

Original title – Cuaderno ideal

Translator – Annie McDermott

Source – personal copy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Years like Brief days by Fabián Dobles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Years like brief days by Fabián Dobles

Costa Rican fiction

Original title – LOS AÑOS, PEQUEÑOS DÍAS

Translator – Joan Henry

Source – personal copy

I don’t often get to feature a new country on the blog and this is the 121 new country on the blog. This was for Spanish lit month but a bit late. Fabian Dobles was one of the leading voice in the generation 40 group of writers from Costa Rica. This was chosen by UNESCO as a representative work, Dobles was known for his social realism in his writing. He wrote Novela and short stories this Novel came out about twenty years ago. He grew up in a small town and his father was a village doctor like the father of the Old man in this book.

The seventy-year-old man closedhis eyes for a long time, and when he opened them at the entrance to the street, the Alajuela SportsLeague and Heredia Sports club were contending in a veteran match of five a side. It was already five goals to nine when a woman neighbour broke in to protest at the cloud of dust that the boys had raised, and his mother came out on the footpath, clapped her hands loudly and called for order, and the game stopped.( What a pity! When it was begingingto be first rate. Everybody quitened down, unlucky us )#

He arrives back in his home village.

We meet our unnamed narrator he is seventy and has decided to drive home in his old cars to his home village. He takes his wife this is the place where they meet. As he arrives in the village we see the events in his past as he relives his life. He was going to seminary school where he was sent to by his father. Until he was abused by a priest this event affects his relationship and his life especially with his parents. He held back what happened to him to this moment and in a letter to his dead mother. Then there is the father he is the village doctor like Dobles’s own father this man in his memories is a violent man lashing out at animals but he also remembers him standing up for the rights and being embraced in the African American community whilst working in New York as a young doctor. It sees a man looking back over his life and tries to forgive those who hurt him especially his father. Also, he remembers those first sexual awakenings with his wife. He also sees poverty more now than he did in things like the type of horse people have from the perfect Arab of the rich people to the half breed horse of the poor.

Dear mama,

Days became year, years piled up like brief days. One of those day you died. No you’re here, then you went away. I’ll never again be able to say. “How goes it Mama?” Ypu were so old and inoffensive when you went away from us saying farewell for ever, and theat letter,  the last oneyou wrote me, was bever answered

The letter to his mother about what happened all those years ago ..

The writer was seventy when he wrote this book so one imagines a number of events in this book are taken from his own life his father was a doctor and he was also like the character in this novel was sent to seminary school but like our narrator, he left it after a number of events as well. This is a book full of memories it reminds me of the later novel of other writers I have read over the years from Gunter Grass with his biographies or old man and the sea by Hemingway. Both of which share the feeling of looking back over one’s life and seeing the faults and maybe forgiving those who have made their life hard in the past and also the joyful moments like meeting his wife.

One hundred year of solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One hundred years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Columbian fiction

Original title – Cien años de soledad

Translator – Gregory Rabassa

Source – Personal copy

I said this was this year read-along for Spanish lit month. I got out my copy which isn’t the one I read but a later edition I read it from the library as I did most of my books in my late teens the little Library in Alnwick was a great gem. I am not much of a rereader but I decided to go back and cover this as it has been five years since Marquez passed he is still the giant of the Latin American boom. I dod wonder if I would find it as engrossing as I did when I read it all those years ago sometimes my not wanting to reread is a wanting to avoid the disappointment of a book seeming less on second reading.

MAny years later, as he faced the firing squad, colonel Aureliano Buendia was to rememeber that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. At that time Macondo was a village of twenty adobe house, built on the bank of a river of clear water that ran along a bed of polished stones, which were white and enormus, like prehistoric eggs.The world was so recent that many things lacked names and in order to indicate them it was necessary to point

The stunning opening of the book as some one on twitter sad maybe the best !!

I then set off to the strange village of Macondo and to the founding family of that Village the Buendia family. The village is an island or is it that is the point of the book it is a family history but a lot of the book you see each generation as similar or as a pale copy of the previous in a way the use of similar names in fact in most generations the same name Aureliano is a name a family name that crops up in the second generation after Jose Arcadio Buendia the founder of the village, in fact, the opening lines is his son and the closing lines is another Aureliano in a more modern Macondo. The village seems to want to avoid moving forward the solitude of the title is the village it ways each generation is a subject to some family intermarrying first cousins etc. Each generation also has a beautiful and alluring female Remedios, Santa Sofia, Remedios the beauty (another recurring name !). A band of visiting gypsies that bring the great inventions of the day and whose lead dies but comes back to the village.pilar that lived for 140 odd years after sleeping with some brothers. These all add to the mystic and strange feeling of the whole place being caught in a revolving door of time.

During a pause in the caresses. Jose  Arcadio stretched out naked on the bed without knowing what to do while the girl inspire him. A gypsy woman with splendid flesh came in a short time after accompanied by a  man who was not of the caracan but who was not from the village either, and the began to undress in front of the bed. Without meaning to, the woman looked at Jose Acradio and examined his magnificent animal in respose with a kind of pathetic fervour

The women in Marquez’s book always seem similar as thou remembered from his own past

So was it worth rereading well yes I loved it like I did the first time I know some people get lost with the names and generations but I let flow over me like a river and just drift with Marquez prose for me, the book is full of him as a writer? I have cover five of his book before on the blog. The pace Macondo is a veiled version of his home town of Acacataca part of the history mirror-like the arrival of the fruit company something that happened itself in the village. A beautiful woman well this is maybe where he will fall down at some point in the future as Marquez loved to describe beautiful women in his books I often feel he is describing the same group of young women from his teen years over and over again. Then there is the revolving sense of the village and this is something that seems more distant now than it did when I first read the book I remember visiting the distant village in Northumberland and the people I picked up for the elderly  day centre known the history of these places back for years and generations like the Buendia family also the way he misses giving technology encroaching on Macondo something that has been lost as the internet and everything it brings has steamrollered that world. It is fair to say yes this book was as good in fact in a way it has changed how I viewed it in the twenty-plus year since my first reading Marquez was a master of what he did

30 covers for #WITMONTH Central America today

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wanted to cover as much of the world as I could in these 30 covers so today we have A autobiography by a great writer from El Salvador it follows the life of a Nicaraguan female guerilla during the war in that area. It followed her life from a good home to the events that lead to her becoming a guerilla fighter. I am a compulsive book buyer I buy books all the time more than I will ever read I do clear a lot out every couple of years but this leads to gems like this I reviewed this last Spanish lit month after having it a couple of years.

The last days of el Comandante by Alberto Barrera Tyszka

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last day of el Comandante by Alberto Barrera Tsyzka

Venezuelan fiction

Original title –  Patria o muerte

Translators – Rosalind Harvey and Jessie Mendez Sayer

Source – review copy

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

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

Sanabria wathced in silence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Iliac Crest by Cristina Rivera Garza

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Iliac Crest by Cristina Rivera Garza

Mexican fiction

Original title – La cresta de Ilión

Translator – Sarah Booker

Source – personal copy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The fish child by Lucia Puenzo

 

The Fish Child

The fish child by Lucia Puenzo

Argentinean fiction

Original title – El niño pez

Translator – David William foster

Source – personal copy

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

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

The two are drawn closer over time.

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

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

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

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

Atlantic Hotel by Joao Gilberto Noll

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Atlantic Hotel by Joao Gilberto Noll

Brazilian fiction

Original title – Hotel Atlântico

Translator – Adam Morris

Source – personal copy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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