That’s how whales are born by Anxos Sumai

THAT’S HOW WHALES ARE BORN

That’s how whale are born by Anxos Sumai

Spanish fiction

Original title –Así nacen as baleas

Translator – Carys Evans-Corrales

Source – review copy

Anxos Sumai is regarded as one of the best writers from Galicia in Spain. She has written four novels and also worked as a radio journalist. She was voted Galician writer of the year in 2007 the year this book came out it also won a prize for short novels. This is another in the series of books that have been sent to me from Small station press who are bringing to us so many new voices from Galicia.

Mother had just turned fifty-five when she decided to lock herself up in her bedroom. The stores had been functioning for a long time without her assistance and were doing well – very well.It was time for her to fall into one of those agonizing maelstroms, because this how it had been throughout her life, When she locked herself into her room she was defeated, yearning to be transported th some place where destiny would be waiting for her. It didn’t matter where: Mother always needed a destiny to set herself into action, to relinquish the voluntary self-exile she would impose on herself when neither death nor her loved pnes could move her at all .

The motherlocked away from her life and the world in pne trying to give up .

The book follows a young woman journey home. Having escaped her family and living in Baja California Mexico where she is studying Marine biology.In particular to do with whales that do crop up as a recurring thought in her mind. The girl receives a call from her Aunt that her mother a figure whom she had numerous problems with her mother. As she returns we found out about her past the mother who never seemed to recover from the husband that left her even now she has shut out the world and lives in her room. The older brother Ramon, a fat boy with a violent temper and disability that is always eating in her mind and then sleeping this was the time they could get around him without him lashing out. The whale at times is a figure she uses for her brother, with the vast appetites. Add a caring Nann the Aunt and Uncle we see a woman struggling to readjust t0 her home but also seeing those around her after returning.Maybe time is right. She is caught up in an affair with her tutor.

Except that the little girl barelyunderstood anything she was being told when Ramon interrupted them, Excuting turns at the entrance to the kitchen, ramon looked like a fat, flabby potato that gyrated and gyrated until he hit one of the walls. The little girl burst out laughin. Ramon made her ;laugh all the time, unless he was asleep.It was like having a clown all to herself, a joyful clown weighing over one hundred kilos.ramon could eat her up if he wanted to. He could eat her up in the same way he could eat a roasted capon all by himself.He could even flatten her when he breathed.

The brother larger than life like a whale a mystery at times

This is an interesting study of a family a modern family. This maybe shows who the dynamics work when there is no father. The problem of having a large than life figure in that of the brother Ramon. He may be overshadowed the narrator(I sense this we never even know her name). THere is a feeling of her runaway but the elastic of her home never quite breaking and being flung back into the family. But with her eyes opened by the trip to Mexico and also maybe having spent time with whales she sees more in her brother Ramon than she did. This is a book about memories the writer has said in interviews also she wants us the reader to draw our own view on the family.The title came from the time she imagined Ramon spending in the tub a fat boy in the tub and a whale ! I really like this book as it does what she wants us as a reader to do and that is thinking about the characters and the situation of an unnamed girl returning to her odd family.

 

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Ash Wednesday by Miguel-Anxo Murado

 

ASH WEDNESDAY

 

Ash Wednesday by Miguel-Anxo Murado

Spanish (Galician) fiction

Original title – Mércores of cinza

Translator – Carey Evans-Corrales

Source – Review Copy

It wouldn’t be Spanish lit month without have at least one books translated from either Galician or Basque. So it is the second book by Miguel-Anxo Murado to be translated into English from the small press Small station. Murado is a writer, screenwriter and Journalist. He has written four books so far. He is also a commentator on Spanish politics for the BBC world service, Guardian and BBC four. His earlier books Soundcheck was based on his experiences during the Balkan conflict and is also published by the Small station press.

Dying blossoms, still white and pink,slowly letting go of the twisted boughs, wafted away by the gentlest of breezes, and children looking on. what are they thinking? the blossoms fall, time moves on.

This image interrupted the suffering of professor I… the image on an ordinary postcard, a simple photograph.He held it i n his hand and looked at it with some effort. It tired his eyes. Actually all of him was tired. He turned over; Ueno Park, tokyo, from his old friend of his, a colleague at Kyoto University, a marine biologist.

A man decides to see the blossom after looking aat tis card at the start of the story.

This is a collection of very short stories most less than ten pages all sixteen only take 136 pages. THe stories range around the world. From the last story which sees Professor visiting Kyoto to watch the annual Cherry Blossom. But this also reminds him that he himself has little time due to ilness. Then we have a ship that is sinking and the description of one sailor as he escapes the burning boat trying to escape and in the water watches his fellow crew members drift away as the currents catch them as a helicopter tries to save others. Then we are in Hong Kong with a visit to get a suit made over night at Wang’s.We see the Chinese ladies that work so hard to make a handmade suit over night. A classic story of two boys falling for a girl both in a gang they try to get her rather like the classic Babel tale of two men and a woman red Calvary.

Master Wang would greet his customers at the entrance bowing his way to the room he used as an office. In that tiny space, under the ceiling that seemed on the brink of caving in , was Wang’s inner sanctum

Wang Kept a collection of hundreds of buisness cards under glass on a table. Over the course of several years passing travelers and buisnessmen from all around the world would have some shorts or a jacket made at Wang’s or maybe some trousers.Most were people unable to spend  much more than twenty-four hours in the city. That is why the would go to Wang’s: Wang’s one-night-ready shop. He never failed on his promise to deliver the work the following day.

I remember Michael Palin getting a suit made on around the world in 80 day in Hing Kong in a day like in this story.

I read the first collection from Murado and loved it but it was a couple of years ago when I had a bad patch blogging so I never got round to it so I am pleased to have finally got to him. This is a universal collection of its themes. we see  Loss, inner strength, love, facing death, celebrating life although dying how we all deal with the extremes of life. This is a collection that shows how small the world is really from China to Japan, to London(a story of two Galician children attending a wake). This as I always say is why we have small press those collections that would never get published otherwise Murado has won many writing  prizes in Spain but not one of the big ones.

The Potato eaters by Manuel Rivas

THE POTATO EATERS

The potato eaters by Manuel Rivas

Spanish Galician fiction

Original title – Os comedores de patacas

Translator – Jonathan Dunne

Source – review copy

I always wonder when we get a writer that has been translator but has not had earlier books or the debut novel translated. I wonder what these books are like in many case we never find out but sometimes we have to look to small press like Small station , who I have reviewed a few times before and this is a debit novel from one of my favourite Spanish writers Manuel Rivas , I have reviewed three times before . Manuel Rivas won the Spanish national prize for fiction in 1996 .for his book people of the night . this was his first adult novel from 1991.

Luou never receives visitors. He must feel pretty happy. Lying there, in his spacesuit, without having to talk or eat or anything like that. I watch the saline solution going down and imagine nothing sliding down the course of his blood and breaking up into tiny, invisible droplets that settle at the end of this toes. The bastard, perhaps in a couple of days he’ll be lucky enough to have Miss Cowbutt spoonfed him his soup

Luou had a tip to toe plaster on after the accident Sam view is odd but beleivable even down to the last line of this quote.

The book follows Sam a young man with a bad drug habit. He had a bad crash and end up in hospital after one particular episode but at least he isn’t as bad off as his friend who end up injured tip to toe . In hospital he has people pressing him for money as he is trying to stay off drugs he meets an old man who world view intrigues him. There is also a nurse he likes isn’t there always lol . His family decides to take him home to  the quirky village he grew up knowing as he grandmother lived there. single mother a man who collects everything a mysterious man in the attic as Sam tries to kick his habit  Aita at his grandmother with his mother his world is controlled and they hoped the mountain air would help him.

The mirror

The dampness has entered the mirror as well and unfurled black ivy along its edge, where the spider has woven its web. I am caught. everything passes slowly before my eyes, bringing dry leaves that land on me sleepily and carry words and memories of others.This is Aita a goddamn cobweb I look at myself in the mirror and pretend to be a monster

This shows Riva’s poetic side in this short vignette aout a mirror and Sam trying to be monster in it

 

This is a story of growing up Sam is just on the cusp of adulthood a boy becoming a man and also he has his cross to bear which is his drug habit . the book is taught in schools in the Galician region it seems , although it has been question as a little to earthy in its language , but I am some one that knows kids say certain words and know what certain words mean.  I can see why it is a tale of what drugs can do and that is ruin your life as we see in the knock on effect with Sam friend Luou who ends up in a really bad way after the accident. Rivas style here is to use short vignettes as the course of the novel each chapter is a snippet of Sam’s life with title like Miss cowbutt the nurse that captures his eye whilst in the hospital. The title is also a the title of Van Goch painting of ugly rural peasants eating potatos , this is maybe a way of showing the ugliness of drugs on people but also the people of Aita could have walked of a van Goch painter the richness in the quirky village folk .It is also full of poetic pieces from Rivas worth discovering as a piece of early fiction from a great voice of Galicians fiction but also a poet as well.

 

Three new arrivals from old favourites

I love to get new books from writers I have previously enjoyed as on the whole for a writer to get a second book published in translation is a success in its self and in this set of three books it is also a chance to read a debut of a writer I really admire.

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Now Manuel rivas is a writer I have reviewed Three times before and this is the second from small stations I have reviewed when Jonathan his translator said he was doing this book I was really excited The potatoe eaters is his debut novel. Follows Sam a drug addict from his hospital bed where he befreinds an old man and has a soft spot for a nurse to the villagew where his brother takes him to hopefully kick the habit. I’m looking forward to this probably next on my tbr pile.

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Then we have another short story collectuon from one of the leading Galcian writers Miguel-Anxo Murado this is also a second book from small stations by this writer his previous collection soundcheck which I read but didn’t get to review but I really liked it so may combine the reviews as the first collection was set mainly in the Balkans .

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I treated myself to this after reading a few good reviews anopther Patrick Modiano , since his nobel win when I know before that win it was fairly difficult to find a book by him but since then many books have come out I have all the Maclehose books but this from Daunt is about a man on holiday discovering a couple and they aren’t all they seem and what they tell him is half truths the usual Modiano themes of memory and identitiy which frequently crop up in his works.

 

One million cows by Manuel Rivas

ONE MILLION COWS

One million cows by Manuel Rivas

Spanish Galican fiction

Original title -un millon de vacas

Translator – Jonathan Dunne

Source – review copy

I received the first for books from a small publisher Small station press , the press was set up by the translator of this book. There aim was to bring the best of Galican fiction to English for the first time . I reviewed Polaroid by the same press as well last year. I saved this for this spanish lit month as it is by one of my all time favourite Spanish writers |Manuel Rivas I have reviewed two of his novels all is silence and the carpenters pencil both of which were translator by Jonathan. This is a collection of short stories from early in the career of this writer.

“Did you see that guy ?” asked Rita. “He smells bad.”.In this day and age , still wearing a corduroy jacket,” remarked pachi. “He’s covered in dandruff,” observed Virxinia. Raul had a doubt “Does he not talk, or is he dumb?””That Girl complained Marije , no longer knows what to do to surprise us. First , she hooks up with an Arab and now she brings along a country bumpkin. Do you think she’s taken him to bed yet ?

A stranger appears with dandruff on his jacket or is it fish scales ?

One million cows is a selection of 18 stories with setting in modern-day Galica in the 1980’s . A time when spain had just shaken of the shackles of the Franco years. The stories range from a schoolgirl recounting her last day at school her favourite art teacher. A man returns from England in another. Then there is how we get the title when it is reported on a news piece that there is a million cows living in farms in Galicia. My favourite piece was a comic story of a man given the job of answering the phones at an army base , when he receives a call  from a woman asking for Jose to be let off on leave to come and sort out the cotton fields, but she won’t say which Jose and there is a lot of them do we ever find out which Jose she wants ? Elsewhere a stranger appears in a town covered in fishscales.

Having been assigned to the telephone exchange , i was one of the others, needless to say on that filthy afternoon, from behind the window of the exchange I thanked my lucky stars that I was only half a man . Until a bell rang , a noisy buzzer that warned of an incoming call.

“INfantry barracks, how can I help you ?”

Is Jose There ?”, asked the distant voice of a woman .

“Jose , what Jose ?”

“Jose is that you ? Can you put Jose on the line ?”

“What Jose , madam ? there are lots of Joses here ”

“I wanted Jose to be given leave, it’s for the cotton, you know. For harvesting the cotton

I like this short tale of a call to an Army Barracks .

I always wonder what the less known works of writers are, you often look at a writers Wiki page or interviews with them translated and see books or as in this case short stories that haven’t been translated this is where the small press come in and the ability to fill in the gaps in the cannon of great writers. I am a fan of Rivas he has a real eye of detail in his writing and that is shown here but also i liked the fact he had humour in a few of the stories which is something I discovered about his writing. I also like that fact in this collection of post Franco tales there was no mention of the fact it was post Franco era.

Do you like to reader lesser known works of writers in translation ?

Polaroid by Suso De Toro

 

POLAROID

Polaroid by Suso De Toro

Spanish (Galician) Fiction

Original title – Polaroid

Translator – Jonathan Dunne

Source – review copy

We were strangers.
We were strangers, for way too long, for way too long,
We were strangers, for way too long.
Violent, violent,
Were strangers.

Get weak all the time, may just pass the time,
Me in my own world, and you there beside,
The gaps are enormous, we stare from each side,
We were strangers for way too long.

I remember nothing by Joy division Ian Curtis summed up the world around him ,like Suso De Toro does in this book .

I was contact after a comment on Tony’s post earlier this month for the book the One million crows by Manuel Rivas a writer that I have reviewed myself  twice on the blog . I was contacted by his new publisher who is also his translator Jonathan Dunne who has started a new small press celebrating all Galician fiction , Small Stations is based in Bulgaria ,this is a wonderful example of how fiction in translation in English is becoming a truly Europe wide enterprise .Now Suso De Toro has written over twenty books in Galician , this was his first Adult book and a sensation when it first came out thirty years ago .he is also a journalist and tv scriptwriter he also won the Spanish national literature prize in 2003 for his book Thirteen chimes . I have included this in spanish lit month as i view any lit from spain as well as spanish fiction in the wider sense so also Basque and like this Galician fiction .

In the centre of the picture is a plump , white-haired old woman dressed in mourning , with a colourful shawl around her shoulders. She staring at the camera with a mile . In front of her , she is holding the shoulders of a dark , little girl in a pink dress ,who is also smiling at the camera ,

(You have to move , it’s a video!) is a short piece about a woman making a video but not moving .

Now I was sent four books by Small station and this jumped to the top of the list when I read the synopsis as it had a mention of Raymond Carver and he is a writer that in pre blogging days , I enjoyed . So this is a collection of short and I would say flash fiction glimpses of ordinary lives and strange historic figures out of context Cain and Abel in modern days . This is a flash of the underbelly of the Galician world porn models criminals and wives poisoning there blind husbands . I loved the jumping in and out of worlds in this collection .One of my favourite was a short paragraph of a women making a video but just stood staring at the video camera .Talking camera the books is splattered with actual polarioids that range from the boring to the gory to glimpses of lives .

A blind man with blond hair and dark glasses sits at a table on the pavement in front of a cafe , holding lottery tickets in one hand and a a white stick in the other , with his head and foot marking the rhythm of a song on the cassette player he has on the table .From time to time the waiter , an overweight , swarthy man with sideburns and a white jacket , appears in the doorway of the cafe and watches the world go by with a bored expression .

A blind man but is he the same man blind man in a later story ?

Now there writer himself described this as inspired by punk . To me I was reminded of those post punk bands in fact at times there is a scene in the film Control where they are recording their debut album with Martin Hanett and he says to the drummer play the drums slower but faster ,this is short fiction that is shorter but longer in that case . He isn’t being clever no this is three chords and the truth in writing  . As for the carver yes it is easy to compare them they both use sparse words but with a full punch behind them .This would been huge thirty years ago at the height of Carvers fame and with the punky feel of the book .

Have you read many books from Galicia  ?

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