Sudden death by Álvaro Enrigue

Sudden death by  Álvaro Enrigue

Mexican fiction

original title – Muerte súbita

Translator – Natasha Wimmer

Source – review copy

Well it is Thursday and this translation Thursday I bring to you all one of the biggest stars in Mexican Lit, in fact part of what we may say is the Power couple of mexican fiction as Alvaro is married to fellow Mexican writer Valerie Luiselli. He has won a number of prizes and one of his books was picked on a list of the best recent books from Mexico .. I have read his book before I brought a copy of Hypothermia which came out a few years ago that was a collection of short stories this is his first novel to be translated into English.

At the collegiate church of Ottery St Mary, under Lacey’s rule, a group of novices had been using at the roofed gallery of the cloister to play matches against townies. In those day tennis was much rougher and noiser than it is today some were attackers, others defenders, there were no nets or lines, and points were won tooth and nail, by slamming the ball into an opening called a dedans. since it was invented by Mediterranean monks, it had redemptive overtones.

The rearly tennis so much different I once saw a court in Oxford for what is now known as Real tennis

Now the shock for you all the book is set of a fictional game of tennis , although this appears to be what we in the uk would call real tennis which is a slightly different game that game before the modern game we know. The match is between the Italian Painter Caravaggio (I mainly know about him from the Derek Jarman film in the 80’s about him ) he is playing the Spanish poet Francesco de Quevedo a quick-witted poet that wrote prose satire and many poems. As the match unfolds in other chapters we travel the world from England with Thomas Cromwell and Henry viii then through to latin america and the dying Aztec empire as they also play a game with the Spaniards there . whilst the two are cheer on from the sidelines by many well-known figures of the time Galileo, Saint Mathew and Mary Magdalene all cheer the two the vulgar Italian painter well-known for his pictures (he did paint the first still life of the modern age in his basket of fruit and the Spanish poet still trying to keep in favour with the royal court of Spain via this match.

Scarcely had Jean Rombaud disembarked at Franciscopolis – such a ridiculous name of the port of Le Harve until the death of King Francis I – before he began to spread the rumour that he was in possession of the darksome braids of Anne Boleyn and the he would make tennis balls with them that would at last gain him entry to the closed courts, where the nobility sweatedt hrough one shirt per game, five per set and fifteen per match. He had always felt that his freshed washed lions mane gave him the right to hardwood and tile: to play for sport rather than money .

I love the story of the ball it is great fun tale one of those odd stories that could be real or could be fake.

I have said before that I hate tennis , well in this case it didn’t matter as the match is just a small framing device to capture two figures that maybe show the world of the time the match is set is in change this is the golden age of discovery, When The world was moving from one age to another even the ball in this story has its own story it is made from the hair of the late Anne Boeyln. Enrique plays with what a novel is this like an earlier novel from Mexico I read By Jorge Volpi , shows how history can be made to serve the present also be caught in one match a duel between two artist to the end as the world around them sees an empire fall a man marry many woman and even the crowd have their stories to tell along the way .Of course with Wimmer translating this book it will of course bring many to connect this to Bolano, but for me they are just two great writers and for me Enrique has maybe more in common with Volpi than Bolano. This is one of those book that defies pigeonholing as a novel one of those that break the mould.

Hve you read anything by Enrique ?

Signs preceding the end of the world by Yuri Herrera

Signs Preceding the End of the World_CMYK SMALL

Signs Preceding the end of the world by Yuri Herrera

Mexican fiction

Original title – Señales que precederán al fin del mundo

Translator – Lisa Dillman

Source – Review copy

My trip through last years books that could make the Man booker longlist has hit one I eel fits the old IFFP mould an issue novel as Tony and I have been saying the last few years, but this is a clever take on an issue by one of the rising stars of Mexican writing Yuri Herrera. This is his second novel and has already been translated into a number of other languages . This is his first book in English.

Slippery bitch of a city, she said to herself. Always about to sink back into the cellar

This was the first time the earth’s insanity had affected her. The little town was riddled with bullet holes and tunnels bored by five centuries of voracious silver lust, and from time to time some poor soul accidentally discovered just what a half-assed job they’d done of covering them over. A few houses had already been sent packing to the underworld, as had a soccer pitch and half empty school. these things always happen to someone else, until they happen to you, she thought. She had a quick peek over the precipice, empathized with the poor soul on his way to hell. Happy trails, she said without irony, and then muttered Best be on with my errand

Makina on way to get her errands to go North for her Brother.

Signs preceding the end of the world follows a journey that happens a hundred times a day and that is the migrant journey between Mexico and United States. What Yuri has done here is taken the location away from the story and just told the story through the person and people involved Makina a young woman who has a dual purpose for being on the journey. personal and for the underworld  That is to find her brother and bring him back down south but also deliver messages from the underworld via Mr Double- U ( love that name almost like a Trantino name ) in her small town and her own mother as they want the brother to return. Makina makes this journey that is well trodden but through her eyes we see a strange world of odd towns and weird rivers as she heads north, how do you see snow when you see it for the first time ?

When she reached the top of the saddle between the two mountains it began to snow. Makina had never seen snow before and the first thing that struck her as she stopped to watch the weightless crystals raining down was that something was burning. One came to perch on her eyelashes: it looked like a stack of crosses or the map of a palace, a solid and intricate marvel at any rate, and when it dissolved a few seconds later she wondered how it was some things in the world – some countries, some people could see eternal when everything was actually like that miniature ice palace:

Snow for the first time also the way it has a myth like nature to Herrera’s prose.

 

This is a book I read twice, Herrrera has taken a fresh way at looking at makina journey and that is make it feel like an odssey , make her journey feel like a myth like a classic quest as she tries to get north. I was reminded of when I read Paz years ago how he viewed Mexico as a labyrinth of myths and history and this takes this and also clashes this past with the neighbour to the north the bright shining lights of US and there modern myths that have taken Makina’s brother and now she is having to go there as well. This is how we see migrants through  there eyes Makina could be anyone from around the world she could be a sister on the back of a lorry entering The uk , or a sister walking the tracks into Europe  or on a boat. Herrera has made Makina an everyone more than just a small village girl.

Have you a favourite Migrant story ?

 

The story of my teeth by Valeria Luiselli

The story of my teeth

The story of my teeth by Valeria Luiselli

Mexican Fiction

Original title – La Historia de mis dientes

Translator – Christina MacSweeney

Source – library book

I’ve been up and I been down
When I been between I just been hangin’ around.
Things are quite different
And life ain’t the same
Since I lost my tooth.

Now the women they treat me rude,
Not that they ever really treated me that good
I’m a minority and now I know
What it’s like and how it feels to be a negro.
doo doo doo doo

It’s gettin’ down to the nitty gritty
If you can’t smile nice and you can’t smile pretty
They don’t wantchya around they say you look sloppy
When you eat

I love the songs of Daniel Johnson and his song since I lost my tooth is a perfect lyric match for this book

Well it is upon us the second women in translation month and I start with a crossover book as we decide to carry spanish lit month over for another month ,so the perfect choice is this book from one of the best writers to appear in recent years in translation the Mexican writer Valeria Luiselli I have reviewed her first novel Faces in the crowd and her essay collection sidewalks here as well .Valeria Luiselli still is living in New york , she also writes a monthly coloumn for El pais .This is her second novel to be translated to English .

I’m the best auctioneer in the world .But no one knows it because I’m discreet sort of man .My name is Gustavo Sanchez Sanchez , though people call ,e highway , I believe with affection .I can imitate Janis Joplin after two rums . I can interupt Chinese fortune cookies .I can stand an egg upright on the table , the way Christopher Columbus did in famous anecdote . I know how to count to eight in Japanese Ichi , ni san , shi , go , roku , Schicho , Hachi .I can float on my back .

Gustavo tells us all about himself in the opening lines of the book .

I couldn’t resist a book on teeth . This is a tall tale of one man and his teeth both his own and his collection of famous teeth . Gustavo Sanchez is a man of many talents , but all this is overshadowed by the state of his teeth . So along the way in his life he has somehow managed to collect a selection of teeth of the rich and famous and has reached a point where he wants to sell these teeth to get himself a new set of teeth .But where did he get those teeth he is selling and where did his own teeth go ? Gustavo is a real character and his stories of the teeth and how he got them are real gems to read .Also the lot descriptions of the teeth in the sale , he is a real salesman

Hyperbolic Lot No. 8

Some teeth are tormented , such is the case of this one the property of Mrs Virginia Woolf .When she was thirty years old , a psychiatrist posted the theory that her emotional ills were due to an excess of bacteria around the roots of her teeth .He decided to extract the three most affected ones .Nothing changed

I love this tall tale of Woolf and her teeth being the cause of her problems .

Now this is the sort of book I love and for me the sort of book that we only find in translation this isn’t a book that would see the light of day in english I imagine . For me teeth have often cropped up in books from Martin amis talking in his autobiography about his own dental problems is one I remember a lot especially as his novel times arrow had echos of the film Marathon man . Now Gustavo is a character that jumps of the page ,a voice that is maybe a every man who is pursuing his dreams , but it is  how he is trying to get his dream teeth is a unique take on how to get to your dreams in this modern age  .It is maybe also a reflection on what price we put on perfection these days . Add to that a tour of the lives of Plato Woolf and Chesterton to name a few and you have a wonderfully witty and truly unique book .

Have you a favourite book with teeth in ?

 

 

Spanish teeth for sale quote for sunday

Mariner reading on pink background - Yiannis Tsaroychis

Teeth and books seem an odd pairing but my current Spanish lit month read is about Teeth and selling Teeeth the latest work by  Valeria Luiselli the story of teeth . So here is a Quote I enjoyed .

HYPERBOLIC LOT NO.9

Our penulitimate lot , ladies and gentlemen , exludes an air of mystical melancholy . The tooth itself is crocodilian , but its aura is almost angelic . Note the curve , it os like a wing in ascent . It’s owner , Mr. Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges , was a man of average height . His short , thin legs supported a torso , which was at once solid and svelte .His head was the size of a small coconut , and his slender , flexiable neck . He was a pantheit . His eyes used to flit from side to side , useless , impenetrable to sunlight but ready to receive the light of beautiful , good ideas . He spoke slowy , as if searching for adjectives in the darkness . How much will you bid ?

How much would you pay for Borges tooth ?

 

Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo

 

Pedro Páramo By Juan Rulfo

Mexican fiction

Original title -Pedro Páramo

Translator – Margaret Sayers Peden

Source – Library copy

Have you got just a minute
Are you easily mad
Let me show you the back room
Where I saw the dead
Dancing like children
On a midsummer morn
And they asked me to join
They asked me to join
But my body was stubborn
Wouldn’t let me give in
So I offered a good deed
In return for a sin

I thought of this song even as i read this book I saw the dead by the underrated Irish band the villagers source

Now I ask myself a couple of years ago when the right time to read and put this book on the blog would be and I decide to wait as it is considered one of the most important books in Latin American fiction as it has influenced some of the biggest names in Latin American fiction .Juan Rulfo had lost both his parent before his tenth Birthday , he carried on to complete his schooling but due to university being on strike he ended up in Mexico city at the military academy ,which he left after three months worked as a clerk managing to study literature at the university in between .He started to write ,publishing a literary journal , then from getting a fellowship he got time to write his first two novel which where a huge hit and in 1955 this book his second book came out .

I came to Comala because I had been told my father a man named Pedro Páramo , lived there .It was my mother who told me .And I promised her that after shee died I would do it .She was near death , and I would have promised her anything .”Don’t fail to go see him ” she had insisted .”Some call him one thing , some another .I’m sure he will want to know you ”

Juan completes the promise he made his dying mother .

Pedro Páramo   is the story of a son returning to his home town , after his mother death to find his father , but also to find out more about his father  .The son Juan Preciado sets out to the town of Comala .Now this is the point where the story starts getting odd because he gets to the town and finds it is full of ghosts of his fathers past and the present , so the story drifts between his father  Pedro Páramo time in the village , his father as a boy falling for a girl called Susana .Her life is one of death and madness .Pedro own life takes many a turn he is a womanizer , tyrant and quite a cruel man .But Juan is in the present where this town isn’t the vibrant place it once was now it’s a dying town .THis is a small part of what are many threads Juan sees in his time in Comala .

If was as if time had turned backward .Once again I saw the star nestling close to the moon ,scattering clouds .Flocks of thrushes .And suddenly , bright afternoon light .

Time is very fluid in this book it is almost as thou the past and present are one place at times .

It’s hard to grasp this book without giving to many bits and side stories away  as there are a number of small threads in this book .The book although 120 pages long feels like an epic russian novel by the time you have finished it you feel as thou it was a real epic journey not a short novella .You feel part of Juan Rulfo own story is in this  book , parents dying ,young family torn apart .His greatest influence as  a writer is on the generation that follow just after him .Marquez said he saw how to write after he felt blocked in his first four books , so yes this is the book that gave birth to magic realism , but is a book of Magic realism  , for me no it owes more to its writers homeland mexico where the dead are celebrated and death sometimes isn’t  the end of someones life these are echoes of what was once a more vibrant  place juan sees at times  .The book also shows how sometimes thwarted love as in the case of Pedro and Susana can lead people down different paths .For me the time was right to read it just after a burst of Marquez , but also Fuentes and Llosa in recent years you can see how this slim book had maybe pushed each of these writers to write in turn as I have also read the other great Mexican book that came out five years before this labyrinth of solitude by Octavio Paz a collection of Essays about mexico and its love of death and myths !

Have you a favourite book from Mexico

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