The Desert and Its seed by Jorge Barón Biza

The Desert and Its Seed by  Jorge Barón Biza

Argentinian fiction

Original title – El desierto y su semilla

Translator – Camilo Ramirez

Source – personal copy

This is a modern classic from Argentina the late writer used his own family life as the bases of the story. His own father Raul Baron Biza a writer and Politician that was in a middle of a divorce with his mother when he threw acid over his mother this is the bases of the story which is told from Jorge’s point of view. He worked as a journalist and in various publishing houses. He translated Proust. His life was touched by tragedy his mother they had to flee to Uruguay as they opposed the Peron regime . His fathe mother sister and ultimately Jorge himself all commited suicide.

Eligia’s naively sensual face began to part with its contours and colours. beneath the original features, a new substance was emerging: not a sexless face, as Aron would have wanted, but a new reality beyond the the necessary resemblance of a face. Another genesis had begun to happen – a sytem of unkown laws

Just after the inital attack her face is meling just before one of the lawyers rush her to the hospital.

The names have been changed Aron is meeting his wife in 1964 as they try to reach an agreement over the divorce. Eligia arrives and Aron throws acid in her face this is where the book opens and Mario her son arrives at the ER to see the horror that be fell his mother at the hands of his own father we arre told tha tAron ran off but later shot himself as he wouldn’t have coped with being imprisioned. The novel folows the mother and somn around the world as they seek a way to mend the mother face painful operations the pain is told early on as his mother is restrained by her wrists to stop her doing more damagfe to her face this is told as we also see there homeland of Argentina falling apart as it stumbles from one disaster to the next. His mother fate at one point he looks at one of those great Arcimboldi the artist that made his pictures of objects his most famous works had veg bu this one was made up of meat and fish. A feeling of his mother face being a patchwork of various surguries and attempts to sort it out.This book shows the horro but also the detacted nature of there relationship he cares for her but there is a lack of empathy and pathos at times he cares for the body of his mother but her soul maybe not so much.

My lace at the table faced animage from the sixteenth century that I could never imagined on my own. The frame had a metal plague that read “The Jurist” Under a cloak with a fur collar was an embellished vest with embroidedflowers and a thick golden chain – a sign that the subject was on the emperors good side – but the coin on the chain didn’t have an inscription or any figure. Underneath the waist coat, where one would expect to see the body of the subject covered by a shirt three thick volummes were visible one over the other, dry and soporfic, I imagine. The ruff was made of paper sheets, and a black cap covered the head.

All these elements, represented very natrually, framed the strangest face I have ever seen in my life.It was composed of plucked chickens arranged in such a way that a wing formed the eyebrows ridge, a thigh made up the cheek, and a small chick passed for a massive nose. A fishappeared fold onto itself, so thats its mouth was also the mouth of the subject, while its tail simulated a beard.

A face made of various parts is maybe a remind of his mother face.

Well this is a classic a slow burn story of a mothjer and son but also the aftermath off facing your own fathers actions this is his own story like they say in a lot of dramas only the names have been changed. Biza was an art critic hence the Arcimboldi and a few othe rpainting mention I alway thought of the vicious image of Bacon’s faces when I imagined his mother. This is a tragic story as we know that everyone in this book took there own life the main characters from Aron shooting himself then a decade or so later his own mother took her life as she couldn’t cope withthe horror that was her life and then his own sister and laterly Jorge only a few years after he had finished this book. How do you find words to capture this he does the nature of surgery on his mother but also the changing up and downs of his homeland at the time are  caught. A gem have you read this book ?

 

62: A model Kit by Julio Cortazar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

62: A Model Kit by Julio Cortazar

Argentinean fiction

Original title –  62/Modelo para armar

Translator – Gregory Rabassa

Source – Personal copy

I said when I reviewed The boat in the evening, I had another book from 1968 to review. This is it the second book for this blog by Julio Cortazar. The novel was a spin-off from his earlier book Hopscotch. He states that this book like his earlier book. Could be read in any order as each passage could link in any way to any other passages. Julio Cortazar own life was rather like the book itself he spent time in France Paris is one of the man place mentioned in the book and also a number of the characters are from Argentina.

Then I’ll walk through my city and I’ll enter the hotel

Or from the hotel I’ll go out to the zone of toilets redolent with urine and excrement,

Or I’ll be with you, my love, because with you I’ve gone down to my city on occasion

and in the streetcar thick with alien, shapeless pssengers I understood

That the abomination was coming, that the Dog was going to happen and I tried

to hold you against me, protect you from fright, but so many bodies separeted us, and when forced you off in a confused movement

The barebones of story no names and no places at times but wonderfully written.

Now this book is probably one of the most difficult I have read but also compelling. The action surrounds a number of characters Juan an Argentinean is the main character, he is maybe a shadow version of Julio himself. Then two fellow Argentinean’s Polanco and Cala add a piece of comic relief Masarrat a sculptor and Nicole an illustrator add the artistic nature and student and an older woman mix it in this novel in the city now this is a city that may be Oslo, Paris or London. The characters meet in places but they describe the cities but it also could just be another unnamed city that reminds this rag tag bunch of characters as they meet and drink. Then we also have a Vampire subplot.

Of course, the argument have absolutely nothing to do with swallows, as anyone who understands the language of the two Tartars can testify.

“Of all the people I know, you’re the biggest Cronk,” Calac says.

“And you’re the biggest pettifor,” Polanco says.”you call me a cronk, sir, but it ‘s obvious that you’ve never boneyed your face in a mirror.”

“What you’re trying to do is start a fight with me, mister,” Calac says.

The two argetineans are also reffered to as Tartars at times they fall oout in a slapstick manor at times.

How do you describe the avant-garde fiction this is a muddled book at times but with the real beauty in his writing. Like his fellow Argentinean Borges this is a book of Mirrors on the prose sometimes you feel you’ve read something before but it is slightly different.Then the book is also lime the famous Mazes the Borges also liked. Julio Cortazar he stated the book could be read in a  jumbled up order.Like BS Johnson’s masterpiece The unfortunates which went a step further than this book and had all the prose piece in separate small pamphlets for the reader to order as we wanted. So what we never know fully is where when and how the characters are connected just that they are this is, of course, an Oulipo novel so like the other books by writers from that group I have read it is the prose that matter, not a narrative timeline or order. Calvino with his playing card inspired piece the castle of crossed destinies. Then we also have two other books Dear reader and The flight of Icarus both that play with narrative style. Icarus using two interlocking storylines and Dear reader looks at what is the future of the book itself. This was a challenge and thanks for the 968 club for getting me to buy it for the challenge.

Revulsion : Thomas Bernhard in San Salvador by Horacio Castellanos Moya

 

 

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Revulsion : Thomas Bernhard in San Salvador by Horacio Castellanos Moya

El Salvadoran fiction

Original title – El asco, Thomas Bernhard en San Salvador

Translator – Lee Klein

Source – personnel copy

Now I saw this shortly after it came out in the summer, I was searching for some Bernhard books and this from a writer I have featured twice before on the blog appeared . Horacio Casrtellanos Moya is an ex pat salvodoran writer, he has written eleven novels . This book is the reason he left El Salvador when it came out is was considered to political many calling for it to be banned and his mother received death threats and Horacio himself fled. He now teaches at Iowa university.

The last time my mother came to Montreal twelve-year ago, she warned ,e. Moya , she said I had to return when she died, I couldn’t be an ingrate.Now here I am, even if it’s only a month, even if it’s no more than thirty days, I don’t intend to stay here a day longer, although we haven’t been able to sell my mother’s house; I’m here a place I never thought I’d return to, to which I never wanted to return.Nut IO don’t understand what you’re doing here, Moya , this is something I wanted to ask you, this worries me the most, how could someone who is free to live in another country, some place minimally decent ,prefer to stay in this shithole

The hatred is clear in this passage near the start of the book Vega hatred of the place .

Now the title is a give away here the book is very much an homage to the style of writing that Thomas Bernhard became known , so the book is a single paragraph and in the best Bernhard tradition the main character is miserable . The book is formed of a couple of hours one evening between to men . Vega a professor how escaped the country and was living in Canada till his mother died and a writer called Moya (another nod to Bernhard he has put himself in his books as well) Vega is talking about the country and the way it has changed and go down hill a tirade against Salvador of the time but this is somewhat tongue in check in style there is a dark humour at times. This is a classic pub scene in a way with two men talking about the world one returning has seen the world and wants to tell his friend about how bad this place was .The Bernhard connection is also the last lines of the book as Vega took his name as an alias back in the day as he liked him as a writer.

Television is already a plague; sure, in Montreal I don’t have a television, but here at my brother’s house, where I’ve stayed until this morning, they’ve forced me to watch television whilst eating meals; you wouldn’t believe it, Moya , the television is in front of the dining table,it’s horrible , you can’t eat normally, you can’t have any sort of normal meal, because of television’s on ready to disturb your nerves.

I like this part Bernhard but also partly hilarious in its tones from vega .

I loved this short book Moya is a marmite writer I think you will either love his works like I do or hate them they tend to be grim and like this rather uneventful but full of life , it is easy to see why the book when it came out twenty years ago but not long after the end of the civil war in El Salvador a glimpse into the abyss that was the country before told by Vega and the way he saw the peace. This book is also an homage to modernism ala Bernhard but also Joyce with the action taking place over the space of two hours in an evening as the two get drunk and try to relive their earlier life . Have you read a Moya book , never sure why he isn’t as considered as highly as  Bolano for me he is actually a better writer and in this translation Lee klein has brought the Bernhard side to life for me.He is the master of capturing those dark times of the late 20th century in central america where violence , dark police forces and violence where just below the surface.

An episode in the life of a landscape painter by Cesar Aira

An episode in the life of a landscape painter by Cesar Aira

Argentinean fiction

Original title – Un episodio en la vida del pintor viajero

Translator – Chris Andrews

Source – personnel copy

I can’t believe I hadn’t till now cover Cesar Aira on the blog ,I have a few of his books and Thought I had reviewed one before now well  as I just missed the end of Spanish lit month being off work on holiday I need to catch up so here we are Cesar Aira Has lived in Buenos Aires since 1967, he is a prolific writer his books tend to be short but he has been writing them at the rate of two to three a year for a number of years a number of his works have been translated into english. This was first published by New directions but later in a three vol version from Penguin mine i the new direction edition.

Rugendas was a genre painter. His genre was the physiognomy of nature, based on a procedure invented by Humboldt. The great naturalist was the father of a discipline that virtually died with him: Erdtheroie or la physique du monde, a kind of artistic geography, an aesthetic understanding of the world, a science of landscape. Alexander Von Humboldt (1769-1859) was an all-embracing scholar, perhaps the last of his kind:his aim was to apprehend the world in its totality

Humboldt was the last of the gentlemen scholars of the great age of discovery and in the eyes of someone like Rugendas a hero .

This is the tale of two real life characters that did meet in real life . But this is an episode that never happened except in Cesar Aira mind. The two characters are Johann Moritz Rugendas , he was one of the best landscape painters of his time known for his work on expeditions. He has been told by the famous explorer Alexander Von Humboldt  to go back to Latin american and record the nature and Landscapes around Chile and Argentina .This is a man driven by his own history his grandfather also a renowned painter of battle scenes . He is driven to record nature at its worst in his painting this is what leads to an event that leaves him scarred after a lightning strike in the Pampas whilst he is painting a scene  and struggling to recover he is a changed man.

They hurried on and , as they approached, saw him move yet remain face down, as if kissing the earth; the flicker of hope this aroused was quenched when they realized tat he was not moving himself, but being dragged by the horse’s blithe little browsing steps. They dismounted, took his foot from the stirrup and turned him over.. The horror struck them dumb. Rugendas’s face was a swollen, bloody mass; the bone of his forehead was exposed and strips of skin hung over his eyes.The distinctive aquiline form of his Augsburg nose was unrecognizable, and his lips, split and spread apart, revealed his teeth, all miraculously intact .

After the lightening strike he is never the same man as before

The book harks back to an age of adventure and a time when painters could be at the forefront of the new world that were being uncovered and in Rugendas Aira has chosen a painter that was considered the best documentary painter.He also had a life worthy of a novel on his return to Latin America after his meeting with Von Humboldt to do a full work on latin america which is where this novel is set , but he also later got involved in a coup in Mexico . This is a gem of a book at 87 pages long it is a perfect summer evening .

Have you a favourite book about Artists ?

Seiobo there below by László Krasznahorkai

Seiobo there below by  László Krasznahorkai

Hungarian fiction

Original title – Seiobo járt odalent

Translator – Ottilie Mulzet

Source personal copy

Just a perfect day
Drink Sangria in the park
And then later
When it gets dark, we go home

Just a perfect day
Feed animals in the zoo
Then later
A movie, too, and then home

Oh, it’s such a perfect day
I’m glad I spent it with you
Oh, such a perfect day
You just keep me hanging on
You just keep me hanging on

I choose perfect day by Lou Reed as it mix part of what is in this book there isn’t a perfect day and this wasn’t one but seemed it .

I wonder if I am the only one that tends to go the other way in times of trouble and read the tougher books to read when in times of trouble . So I found myself picking up my second novel to read by Krasznahorkai , the other week of course I had been remind I has it when he won the recent man booker international award .Krasznahorkai is best known for Satantango which is the other book by him I have read . He has since the fall of the soviet bloc traveled the world hence this novel which is written 20 plus years after Satantango  is set mainly in japan but also in various places and times . He has spent the last decade in both Japan and China .

Everything around it moves , as if just this one time and one time only , as if the message of Heraclitus has arrived here though some deep current , from a distance of an entire universe in spite of all the senseless obstacles , because the water moves .

The opening lines .

 

The premise of Seiobo there below is the Japanese goddess once every 3000 years has a peach tree in her garden that bares fruit and this fruit gives who ever eats it immortality . Now she decides to search for perfection on the earth thus setting up the sequences of stories that follow in the book as we see her follow various artist actors and such .Trying to find what is perfection but is perfection what it seems , is that great actor the face every one sees when he acts , or is he different behind the scenes ? How do you get the perfect colour for that picture .What makes great art and is their great art with great artist , do great artist make great art .Each story leads some how in some way to the next as we follow Seiobo on her quest .

Well as you see as ever something seems to escape me in Krasznahorkai  writing  but l, I can put my finger on it here for me as a reader it is time . This is like me being given Boy and Actung baby  by u2  or even Tender prey and push the sky away by Nick cave . Now these are all great records but can you list to Boy then actung baby ? it is like I have broken the sequence as with this book which chapters follow the Fibonacci sequence maybe I have jumped in my reading of him from boy to actung baby and am feeling a bit disjointed .I mentioned Nick Cave as to parapharse him when he was speaking to Blixa Bargeld in the documentary 20000 day on earth he wish he had learned to edit at an earlier age , but why to me Satantango is Krasznahorkai Tender prey rough uncut and totally addictive , but for me I feel I have to read the other books by him in english and at a later date return to this one to fully get the sense of this as a book .As for now I was reminded of the film pi by Darren Aronfsky , which sees a young mathematician driven to madness by the search for perfection in maths like that Seiobo search for the perfect person to receive the peach is actually a flawed one art is in the eye , the moment , the time , the subject and can be perfect for only a split second .So i will return with a longer review after I have in a few years read his other books as I get hold of them in english .

Do you like jumping about  in a writers life ?

Midsummer Night by Uwe Timm

Midsummer night uwe timm

Midsummer Night by Uwe Timm

German Literature

Original title – Johannishacht

Translator – Peter Tegel

Uwe Timm is a name better known in German than English ,he is highly regard as one of the leading German writers of recent times .I had read him years ago with the invention of curried sausage ,so when a couple of years ago I was in LRB and saw this I decide to by it for a German lit month and this time round I ‘m reviewing it .Uwe Timm father died during world war to on the eastern front .He went on to study philosophy and German Literature in both Munich and Paris .He then went on to become a writer and has been a writer in residence .His last novel in German released this year had been long-listed  for the German book prize (the German equivalent of the booker )

A magazine editor asked me if I would be interested in writing something about potatoes : the Peru – Prussian connection .Potatoes and the German mentality .And of course personal potatoes preferences recipes .Fried potato affairs .He laughed .” You’re interested in stories about everyday things aren’t you .eleve to twelve pages , you can spread it out ”

The bizarre article request that takes our narrator to Unified Berlin .

Midsummer night follows a journey to write a piece about potatoes for a newspaper .This article happens to be at the same times  as there  plans to wrap the Reichstag by the conceptual artist Christo  .Our narrator discovers an east German has written a book about potatoes and the nutrition to be eaten .So our narrator heads into the night of Berlin and comes across a worker on a sex line ,arms dealers ,a designer and a drunk wedding party .He is also search for what his later uncles last words meant .So as over three days he sees all the city of Berlin has to offer .We see the melting pot that is Berlin post the wall falling this is 1996 and Bulgarian ,Poles ,old east Germans all mingle together as wee see the dark and light side of city life but also a large chunk of humour .

“They’re after me .”

“who ?”

“A gang of arms dealers .”There was a silence at the other end of the line I heard a faint astonished snort from Kubin , at any rate I decided the snort was astonished .”it sounds crazy ,I know “I said , “I’ve gotten involved in a really insane business ”

“Hogwash ,”  he said .”You’ve boiled over with your potatoes ”

The insane days and nights lead to this incident in the book .

 

Now this is a book you don’t expect from Germany a comic novel ,Our narrator is a writer with writer’s block that has taken this bizarre article to try to kick-start his writing of a new novel .We get the city at its maddest Middsummer has always been connect with people going slightly mad and we see some drawn into a bizarre world .This isn’t the berlin of Alexander platz or Even Wender Wings of desire ( der himmell über Berlin) .But it is the berlin of the follow-up film to Wenders  wings of desire ,faraway so close which is roughly set in the right time and like this book we follow a hapless chap round post communist unified Berlin fall in with arm dealers as well .Also the film has the same comic touches in this book are similar the woody Allen, like  people being caught in strange situations .This book could have been a film by Allen if he had been touring Europe as he seemed to have in recent years at the time the wall fell he would have made a film similar to this .It’s safe to say I hope you all root this lost gem of German Literature out as the book its self and its writer Uwe Timm need a wider audience in English .

Have you read Uwe Timm ?

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