The House of Ulysses by Julian Rios

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The House of Ulysses by Julian Rios

Spanish fiction

Original title – Casa Ulises

Translator- Nick Caistor

Source – personal copy

Julian Rios wrote his first two books together with the Mexican writer Octavio Paz. He was described by Carlos Fuentes as The most creative and inventive writer of his nation. He is influenced by James Joyce and of modernist and postmodernist writers. He was the editor of the Espiral collection in Spanish that published books by Thomas Pynchon, John Barth, Severo Sarduy and many other writers. He has had a number of his books translated into English and currently lives just outside Paris

Silence! somebody said, and the Cicerone moved on through the white and gold room, explaining the characteristics of those barrel-shaoped Martello towers, about twelve meters high and with two-and-a-half meter thick stone walls, which the English scattered round Dublin and the coasts of Irelan to defend against a possible Napoleonic invasion in support of rebels seeking Irish independence. According to the Cicerone, the matello tower at Sandy Cove was a century old. The Order for it to be built been given on June 16, 1804 – exactly one hundred years earlier

The opening as Stephen and his two friend in the Martello tower as he is also shot at .

Rios talks of Books being Born out of Books as Ulysses is born out of Homers work this book is born out of Joyce’s great book but also the great city of Dublin and it last legacy. It is set out as five characters a Cicerone as he walks through Joyce’s literary day and three other readers as set out in the early chapter ABC a mature female reader from then on called A. A younger female slim dark hair in a Ulysses t-shirt or as she then knows B. Then a tiny man grey hair and beard, with a pipe the Old critic all three have a copy of the illustrated Ulysses and are joined as well by the Man in the Macintosh a sort of computer nerd that uses A mac to give info. The Narrative then Follows Blooms and Daedalus Day chapter by chapter. As most of know the book I pick two highlights the opening chapter Telemachus which saw Buck and Stephen waking in the Martello tower a connection noted here to the Med from the origin of the tower design in the Casa’s of the Mediterranean. This opening chapter is so heavy in means(I have and still love listening to Rejoyce Podcast by the Late Frank Delany that spent a long time on these opening lines) A lot is also mention here with the imagery and use of language. Then jumping forward we have one of my favourite homer Joyce crossover in the Cyclops chapter when Bloom in the pub has an argument with the Nationalist another  chapter steep in meaning from Bloom being a lapsed Jew to being Irish the three readers and the other discuss the chapters, scenes, the setting Dublin 16th June 1904, times and other pieces that Joyce wrote that interconnected to the book.

Two eyes are better than one, A added, puhing his steel-rimmed dark glasses onto his nose with his forefinger as he made to enter the green room.

Yes, C said. That is simpole conclusion of “Cyclops.”

In the land of the blind, the one- eyed man is King, siad A.

“Cyclops” also tells us that all narrow-minded nationalism is blind, C said.

And stupid, A added. Blinkered Jingoism.

Yes, C said, In “CYClops” Joyce satirized intolerance nationalism, xenophobia, Chuvism, Fanaticism, and the intolerance of some Irsih radical groups such as the Fenians, caircatured here in the figue of the Citizen

How Apt this passage is for Now in our times in 115 yers how much has changed !!

This is a tough book to describe as it is a novel about reading deeper into another novel but also the meaning of that novel now in a way. Ulysses is one of the greatest books ever written a lively, broady description of one day in Dublin Life an Event that in Joyce’s own life was his first date with his beloved wife. The characters all reflect parts of Dublin, Joyce and Joyce’s love-hate relationship with the city. Through his five characters, we see what each part of the book meant with the frequent tables telling use the time of the day the location the symbolic items colour, organ, technique, meaning, and correspondence. Now for me, you have to have read or tried to get well into Ulysses to read this book it like many books around Ulysses makes you want to reread it. I also have just got Anthony Burgess old book just back in print also at one-timed called Re-joyce and yes it is time to revel in Joyce one again and for me, this unusual novel is a great starting point for this year’s Spanish Portuguese lit months. Are you a Joyce Fan? Have you read Ulysses have you read this without reading Ulysses?

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The Little Communist who never smiled by Lola Lafon euro 2016 book 1

 

The Little Communist Who Never SmiledThe little Communist who never smiled by Lola Lafon

Original title – La petite communiste qui ne souriait jamais

Translator – Nick Caistor

Source – review copy

Well today sees the Euro 2016 championship kick off and there is a strange symmetry to this book and the first game which is a novel by a French writer about a famous Romanian which mirrors the opening game of the Euro 2o16 championship which sees France take on Romania. Lola Lafon has written three novels this is her third novel, she is also a well-known feminist in France and also a singer. This book won a number of book prize in France ten in all.

They are waiting for her. This first press conference is packed out, all five hundred seats and more on the ground, there is no room anywhere. The walls are covered in embrodieries of flowers. When she finally arrives, dressed in the romanian team’s tracksuit with blue , yellow and red bands and the hammer and sickle on her chest, her coach lifts her and carries her at arms length to her place; the doll she is clutching is wearing the same tracksuit and their hair is done the same way, with two bunches tied up with red ribbons. Above her head, a portrait of President Ceauseacu.

I love the doll in her hands and the way she is carried like a doll into this first conference after the perfect ten.

Now the book is a imagine work on the life before during and after the Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci, shock the world when in the 1976 olympics , when she got a perfect ten for her routine on the uneven bars the first time this had even happen. What we see is how she is discovered trained then wins the gold medal . This point is where her life really changes she becomes firstly a figurehead for woman around the world but also a pawn in the cold war . Used by the Romanian regime of Ceauusecu as a figure-head for the country ,  but this weighs heavy on this fidgety young girl that is yes a great gymnast but propelled into a world of craziness that was the propaganda of the cold war. Thing like Romanian eat better than West German the bountiful land displayed by fake food in photos she is involved with.

In 1984 or 1985, I can’t remember which, a woman died after an abortion. The securitate forced her family to organize the funeral outside the factory, her body was exhibited as an example. An example.. they exhibited living womans bodies as well, like Nadia with those postcards of her everywhere, and her triumphs; dead or alive, we could be used.

The dark side of the regime no abrotions and woman either held up or put down .

I enjoyed this book I knew Very little of Her life other than the grainy footage of her 1976 win and that perfect ten moment that she got . Which has been part of an advert here in the Uk in recent years. Her life is an example of what was so wrong with the cold war the myths lies and untruths that both sides made. But in particular regimes like the one in Romanian where the face of the nation on the press wasn’t the actual face of the world and we see this through Nadia’s eye a young girl growing and seeing the world from both sides the huge palace of Ceausecu to the home she lived in and her training. Lafon has captured the cold war through one womans story and also captured the sad life of a heroine and a true great in her field .A great book about sport to read on opening day of euro 2016 and France and romania which is just about to kick off….

Have you a favourite Novel  about a famous person ?

Lizard tails by Juan Marsé

lizard tails

Lizards tail by Juan Marsé

Spanish Literature

Orginial title – Rabos de lagartija

Translator – Nick Caistor

Source – Personnel copy

 

We plan our lives according to a dream that came to us in our childhood, and we find that life alters our plans. And yet, at the end, from a rare height, we also see that our dream was our fate.

Ben Okri on childhood

Well when I brought the Jorge Volpi novel at Oxfam the other week ,this was the other book I found for Spanish lit month ,which was good fortune because Juan Marsé  has a new book the Caligraphy of dreams due out early next month from Maclehose press ,so I was able to read and put two books on the blog from one of the most well-known and successful Spanish writers ,Juan Marsé  start as a Jewellers apprentice .,but writing stories on the side in the late 1950’s his stories were being published and he decide to become a writer .Many of his books have been made unto films in Spain .He won the Cervantes prize in 2008 ( the Spanish Nobel prize )

“Come on kid , spit it out ”

My parents conceived me many years ago now ,but at that moment I can have been in existence for only three or four months .Everything that happened then takes place as if in a dream frozen in the placenta of memory , a time suspended when public masquerading and private misfortune were the order of the day ,a time of abuse and unhappiness ,of prison and chains

The opening lines of Lizard tails ,this just drew me in to him

SO Lizard tales is in the post world war two period of Spain’s history Franco is still in charge of Spain .We meet David a young boy in Barcelona ,he has his own problems a drunken father who for various reasons has had to disappear  and a mother that turns men’s heads .SO we enter this young man’s worlds of Lizard tails that him and his friends ,David also dreams of an RAF pilot whose picture David has on his wall  in his bedroom , so he dreams diving spitfires and makes  a war-torn city rebuilding its self  his personnel playground .then there is also  Absent father Victor ,whom like most boys whom fathers aren’t there becomes a mythical figure to  impressionable young boys David .

Squatting on his haunches , David lets the lizard escape .then picks up the severed tail oozing sticky liquid over the drowsy rocks .He presses the penknife on his knee to shut it ,opens his other hand and puts the new til in the palm next to another one still writhing there .

Collecting his tails the title of the book .

Now I like good child narrators and David is ,his story is an Everyman story  of post civil war Spain ,how many boys lost their father because of the war ,their opinions or they just had to go ,many so as we follow David with his friends ,discovering themselves ,but also their and their parents places within this changed world . I was reminded of a couple of recent Argentinian  novels with child narrators by Andres Neuman and a few years ago by Marcelo Figueras  ,I feel Marse must have in some way been an influence on these writers ,given his position within Spanish Literature ,he was the only writer with two books on a list of the best Spanish books by El Mundo, this book was one of the two books on that list .An interesting take on growing up by a master writer ,I don’t know how I not read Marse before but its like spinning plates being a world lit blogger you try to keep them European ,Latin american ,African ,Arabic and Asian fiction but ever so often its nice to find the writers from somewhere you have missed .

Have you read Marse ?

Talking to Ourselves by Andrés Neuman

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Talking to ourselves by Andrés Neuman

Argentinian fiction

Original title – Hablar Solos

Translator – Nick Caistor and Lorenza Garcia

Source – Review Copy

Well I was so pleased to be sent Andrés second book to be translated into English as his first book Traveller of the century was one of my favourite books of 2012 .Andrés is one of the biggest stars of Spanish language fiction ,he has won a lot of the big prize from the Spanish-speaking world and was also on the IFFP last year .

The I start to sing , and my mouth gets bigger .It makes Dad laugh to see how happy I am .But Mum doesn’t laugh .

I’d been pestering them about it now for ages .Every summer .They always said the same thing .When you’re older .I hate it when they say that .I picture a long line of kids with me at the end .This time they argued ,not out loud .

I feel this captures the whole picture of what each is telling them selves in this novel .

Talking to ourselves is a novel made up of a trio of voices ,a family the father Mario is dying of cancer and want to take a road trip with his son Lito .Left behind trying to fathom out what is happening to her husband is Elena .Now Mario and Lito are on the road with Pedro their truck father and son ,Lito is so excited as he has want to see the places he has heard of over the years but til now he hasn’t be able to see that said his father wants this trip with Pedro to be his sons memory of him .Now at home the mother of the family is seeking solace in the arms of first book and then the doctor that has been treating her husband ,as she worries how it will all end .

I was going to say he drives me wild .But besides being cheesy that would be in accurate .It’s more like ,with Ezequiel as a pretext ,through his body ,I had allowed myself to go wild .His healthy young body ,Distant from death .

As I write this I Despise myself ,but sometimes Mario’s body disgusts me .Touching it is as difficult for me as it is for him to look in the mirror .

Elena struggles with her husband’s Illness

Now I described this book on twitter as a bit like the blind men describing an elephant proverb as the three narratives describe different thing ,like the proverb Lito story is a road trip with his dad ,he hasn’t noticed how ill his dad is .Mario journey is to make his young son remember him and Elena is to find solace .But like the proverb each is seeing something different in the present their own spin .At heart of this is how families deal with their tough times how often do we shield those nearest us from the truth ? How often like Elena in times of trouble do we seek Solace in the wrong places ? And like Lito as a kid how often do you miss or just not see the bigger picture ? I also said on twitter each narrative is the person holding a mirror to their soul ,rather like Borges each is finding their soul whether on the road or in the books they are reading ( There is a list of the books mention in the book at the back of the novel ) .I am a huge fan of Andrés  (I have met him and found him one of the warmest and approachable writers I have ever meet ) ,Did I want another Traveller of .. ,no I have always found the writers I love, are  like this book take different journeys on every book  they writer .It takes real courage to make every book different from the one before ,I feel this is what Bolano also saw in Andrés when he made his famous quote of the 21st century belonging to him and his blood brothers .Andrés has tackled cancer and dying in a family with out drifting into overly sentimental tones and given the family as a whole real voices of what real people would do in this situation .

Have you read any of his books yet ?

 

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