Empty Words by Mario Levrero

Empty Words by Mario Levrero

Uruguayan fiction

Original title – El discurso vacío

Translator – Annie McDermott

Source – personal copy

I am back with another for my Spanish lit month and this time I am heading down to Latin America and one of the countries that I really should have read more books from over the year and that Is Uruguay and her we have a book from the late writer Mario Levrero a writer that as the translator said in the intro he is hard to put in a Genre. I liked in his Wiki page that it said he had left school due to a Heart murmur. Then he had spent his time listening to tango music and reading. He spent the latter part of his life trying to finish his novel The Luminous novel which he had spent a number of years working on he had been influenced by Franz Kafka and Lewis Carroll. This is the first book I have read by him and it was like going down a rabbit hole.

My graphological self-therapy begins today. This method (suggested a while ago by a crazy friend) stems from the notion – which is central to graphology – that there’s a profound connection between a person’s handwriting and his or her character, and from the behaviourist tenet that changes in behaviour can lead to changes on a psychological level. The idea, then, is that by changing the behaviour observed in a person’s handwriting, it may be possible to
change other things about that person.

My aims at this stage of the therapeutic endeavour are fairly modest. To begin with, I’m going to practise writing by hand. I won’t be attempting calligraphy, but I’ll at least try to manage a script that anyone could read – myself included, because these days my writing’s often so bad
that not even I can decipher it.

What he is trying to do is explained .

What happens when you get some writer’s block. Well, our narrator unnamed has been told by a friend to just write with a pen and paper every day ( this is something you see a lot these days in self-help videos and how to become creative). What we have here is his jotting the life his outpouring and over time you see how Levrero has let his narrator pour out his life and his life is one that is seeing him wanting to go up the ladder at work he writes crosswords and his mother is now showing her age. His stepson is distant so most of his time is spent Wirth his dog Pongo. But what we see is a man trying to write trying to expand from tales of his dog and the cat next door. This is one of those books that is just great but is hard to describe I’ve seen it compared to Bernhard in a way especially as he had Also written about trying to work through writer’s block.

4 October
A bad day for calligraphical exercises, and for lots of other things too. It’s raining (which I enjoy, though it makes me even more inclined than usual to sleep and do nothing). Yesterday (today) I went to bed after five in the morning; at ten thirty I was woken up by a truck with loudspeak-
ers attached, which stopped right outside our house and held forth about some stupid raffle, at great length and appalling volume. Then, without having got back to sleep properly – I’d been dozing, but that was it – at twelve thirty I was woken up once and for all by Juan Ignacio and his
grandmother, who were shouting for the dog in a deafening chorus. Because of all this, my eyes are burning and I don’t feel like doing anything. I notice, however, that except for the odd slip-up, my writing is large and clear.

A few days later and we see how he is getting on with his daily task of writing.

 

Another review said that Uruguay is known as the place of the strange ones when it comes to writers. I think that this would be one I struggle at times it is one of those books that hasn’t any real plot other than we know he is writing every day to free his writing up. this is an overweight guy with heart issues ( this is another nod to Bernhard in a way how often his characters have a sort of spite to their own world !!). It is maybe a writer trying to write about a writer trying to escape writer’s block whilst the writer himself is trying to escape the writer’s block he is suffering. His other book the luminous novel is also like this about trying to escape writer’s block. He likes to take the reader down rabbit holes of a writer struggling in his life there is a sense of the absurd nature of the world around us at times. The writers mentioned by his translator are evident Kafka there is a sense behind our narrator there are more mentions of having to live away from his home in Uruguay.An interesting book for this year’s Spanish lit month I will be getting his other book. Have you read this or any other writers from Uruguay? this is a Spanish Kafka trying to get out of writers block by imaging he is Thomas Bernhard whilst following his dog into a rabbit hole.

Winstons score – B a solid intro to a writer I liked to read more from a book that is unusual and challenging but the sort I love as a reader.

 

The Shape of Bones by Daniel Galera

The Shape of bones by Daniel Galera

Brazilian fiction

Original title – Mãos de Cavalo

Translator – Alison Entrekin

Source – Personal copy

Well, I’m back posting here post- heatwave and working nights during said Heatwave sapped my energy so I am running late with Spanish / Portuguese lit month-wise . BUT I think a few books was planning to read, I can carry over to next month rot go with my women in translation books I have planned to read. Anyway, it is back with a book I finished just prior to my holiday a book from a writer I had read before, I like blood drenched beard by the Brazilian writer Daniel Galera, a writer and translator that has worked on E-zines, launched his own publishing house and has seen a number of his works made into films and plays. He is considered to be one of the best young writers from Brazil. This is the second book from him I have reviewed. As we are near the endow this year’s Tour de France. A book that at its heart has a couple of bike rides seems very apt.

The Urban cyclist lies in the middle of the street for at least ten seconds, his leg still caught in the bike, while the neighbourhood dogs bark in a frenzy. When his brain starts working again, the first thing that occurs to whims is that his face must be deformed. He runs his hand over it and finds a little blood on his thumb. His tongue registers the sour taste and what appears to be a small flap of loose skin on his lower lip. He frees his leg from the bike, the right one and examines it. A small white circle under his knee begins to sprout minuscule red dots, which become drops of blood that swell and start to run down his leg.

I think we have all had a fall from a bike like this as a kid or an adult that bad crash.

 

The book has a twin storyline that both focus on Hermano a young surgeon and husband but he is distant in his marriage as we see him sneak away from his sleeping wife and child. As we follow him as he sets off early one morning to drive through Porto Allegro to fetch a friend for a ride. We see the man remember his childhood in the rougher side of time and the group of friends he knew then a bunch of rough kids as they tore through the streets like a character on a bike from an early Springsteen song as they grew up in Esplanade district of the town a working class young part of the city.  As we follow him in the present trying with a friend to scale a mountain ( apt as yesterday was the last day in the mountains in the Tour) he passed through his old neighbourhood on the way the past comes to the fore in his mind as the start to climb the mountain and we see how what happened in the past with the boy shaped the man how the urban cyclist and his gang made this distant surgeon in the present. How one event in those years is still haunting him in the present.

The street that served as a finish line at the bottom of the stairs wasn’t very busy, but it was still a miracle that there hadn’t been any deadly collisions with motor vehicles. The most skilled riders managed to stop their bikes with a skid before they got to the kern, but the manoeuvre came with its own risks.

This is one of the passages that made me think of those early Springsteen songs of kids in cars ion his songs but tearing through streets like they do here on the bikes on the edge of life.

I love novels that use the twin storyline as a narrative tool because when it is pulled off like it is here it is a wonderful way to give insight into a character’s past and why they are like they are in the present you get the sense early on that there is something in Hermano’s life that isn’t quite right yes he has it all the life away from his childhood home, the wife, the child the dream job but there is that niggling sense the way he sneaked off the way the drive through a place sparked the past that one moment in the past that set the present this book does that brilliantly also the pacing with the drive and ride on the mountain as pacing to the book as the morning and the memories of the gang the tearing through the streets this is a man-made good but at what cost!! I am teasing you as this is a book that I think maybe slipped under the radar blood drenched beard of Course with the title which grabbed people I would imagine is a great book but for me, this is the better book by him. Have you a favourite book that uses two timelines in the Narratives?

Winstons score – +A a man faces his past whilst on a bike ride perfect reading whilst the tour is on.

Still Born by Guadalupe Nettel

Still Born by Guadalupe Nettel

Mexican fiction

Original title – La Hija Unica

Translator – Rosalind Harvey

Source – Personal copy

It is always good to get back to a writer you have read and enjoyed it is like getting that old jumper out of the draw you know it will fit you perfectly. `So I am late to my Spanish lit month but I am starting in Mexico with Guadalupe Nettel. A writer from Mexico has written a. number of novels and short stories and we are lucky that most of her books have been translated into English. She is one of the group writers in the Hay Bogota 39 group a number of years ago. I have reviewed her twice before on the blog and both those books were ones I loved so when I saw this had come out I just had to get it to read especially when I read the theme of motherhood and being able to choose to have children something that has taken years for society’s view on women having children.

It is easy, when we are young, to have ideals and to live according to them. What is more complicated is acting consistently over time, and in spite of the challenges, life puts in our way. Shortly after I turned thirty-three, I began to notice the presence – the appeal, even – of children. For two years, I had been living with an artist from Asturias, who would spend hours in our apartment devoted to his work, impregnating the air of our shared space with the heady scent of his oil paints. His name was Juan. Unlike me, he knew how to be around children, and enjoyed it. If he came across a child when we were out at the park or at a friend’s house,

Nettel, Guadalupe. Still Born (p. 21). Fitzcarraldo Editions. Kindle Edition.

The book follows the path around the theme of motherhood or whether to be a mother around a couple of friends Laura and Alina who are high fliers in their jobs and are both climbing the career ladder. They don’t want to have children at the moment well Laura doesn’t want to and she felt as though her friend had the same feeling as she did. So when the two women go on their own paths as one decides to have not children Laura makes sure she can’t have kids. But at this point, her friend meets someone and then decides that she wants to have a child this is the second strand her first IVF treatment which is told with a wonderful detached nature that gives it that clinical feel to such a personal moment in a woman’s life. Then when during the birth there is a twist that will change the future of `Alina and her partner Aurelio when they discover their newborn will have a disability which makes them reassess their future and what motherhood will be for them with a child with a disability and short-lived outlook. Then add to this there is a second tale of motherhood with the son of a neighbour.

On Monday I turned up at my gynaecologist’s office without an appointment and asked him to tie my tubes. After asking me a series of questions to gauge how certain I was, the doctor looked at his diary. I had the surgery that same week, convinced I’d made the best decision of my life. The surgeon did his job skilfully, but while I was recuperating in the hospital, I got an infection caused by one of those superbugs are so hard to eradicate. I returned home with a fever and spent several days like that without telling anyone what I’d done, not even Juan. Afterwards, when I was given the all-clear, I called Alina, feeling sure that only she would be able to understand me.

Nettel, Guadalupe. Still Born (pp. 22-23). Fitzcarraldo Editions. Kindle Edition.

 

This is an insight into the world of choosing not to have a babe and it uses the two friends as a wider comment on how society views motherhood and having children. I thought back to a film like Parenthood that dealt with having kids but society has moved on and there are more women wanting children Later in life or not at all as they want to pursue a career. It is all about choices and the ability to have them. But it also tackled the problem of having a child with a disability, after 30 plus years of working with people with disabilities you find there are certain ways parents over time have dealt with their children but also the way things have changed over time. The narrative times in the book have a detached nature at times that may be due to Laura being the one that is narrating the events and is the one that isn’t into children or being a mother. She views the world in her way and that gives it an interesting perspective and feel to the book. bu Laurt has a close bond with her friend and the horror of learning about they’re  Child’s disability and the effect it will have on everyone. Have you read any books from Nettel ? or around motherhood or choosing not to have children?

The 10th Annual Spanish and Portuguese lit month

It has been 10 years since I started the year’s Spanish lit month, July every year. It was initially with Richard the blogger at the blog at Caravana de Recuerdos. But he hasn’t blogged for a few years, unfortunately. I miss his input as he was far more of a Spanish lit fan than me but I plan to have two books to read one from Spanish and one from Portuguese and they are both from writers I have read on the blog before.I hope to read a couple more books as I do every year but the two books I have chosen for the read-along in the second and fourth week of July.

Here are the two books I have chosen

First up is Witches by Brenda Lozano Translated from Spanish by Heather Cleary. This is the second book published in English by Brenda Lozano and the first book to be translated was loop I really enjoyed I have read this but then held back and will read it again in July as it seemed a great choice for people to read in Spanish lit month as I know I lot of people like loop this story has two timelines on about Feliciana an Indigenous healer and Zoe a  journalist we follow the stories in two narratives. This book I will review this in the second week of July . It is out in the Uk from Maclehose press.

The second book Translated from Portuguese is one of my favourite writers Antonio Lobo Antunes here are the books I have reviewed by him. This is the book Until stones become lighter than water (I love that title ). As ever it deals with Portugal’s colonial past but this is described as his most captivating and experimental book. This is published by Yale university imprint Margellos world republic of letters. I plan to review this in the fourth week of July.

What do you plan to read, will you read one of the two books I have mentioned. Which books translated from Spanish or Portuguese in the last year would you point me in the direction off?

Hoping you join in on the 10th Spanish and Portuguese lit month.

 

None So Blind by J A Gonzalez Sainz

None So Blind by J A Gonzalez

Spanish fiction

Original title – Ojos que no ven

Translator -Harold Augenbraum and Cecilla Ross

Source – personal copy

I reviewed a couple of books from Hispabooks that published a number of Spanish writers and their books into English based in Spain they broke through a number of the recent writers I have loved Navarro and Barba being two of note that they published first over here. This is the first book by the Spanish writer Jose Angel Gonzalez Sainz to be translated into English he has written a number of novels. He won the Herralde prize one of the big book prizes in Spain. He was the founder and editor of the magazine Archipelago He has also translated a number of works from Italian to English including the works of Claudio Magris with whom he is a good friend. Nine so blind is the first of his books to be translated into English.

Diaz carrion, Felipe Diaz Carrion, knew from an early age, from the first times his father , may he rest in peace, took him along on the road to the field, that Egyptian Vultures were the first vultures to arrive on the scen wherever there was carrion, Genrally they are quiet and quick, his father told him, impressing him to the point of awe, quieter and quicker than anypne else, and despite their large size they don’t make type of dramatic commotion other vultures do, so sometimes they go unnoticed even thpugh they’re always there from the beginning, going about their buisness.

Maybe felipe is like the vulture unnoticed at times a quiet man and his world

The book focuses on the life of Felipe Diaz Carrion a printer that has always work in print shops what we follow is his life the three generations his relationship with his father. His time with his wife. The book follows him leaving his g=hometown and the fields that his family had worked and lived in for many years there is a recurring image of a Vulture and Egyptian vulture that is white and as is point out at a distance looks like a stork at times a motif of life and death this is a story of a quiet man a no one but when he moves North when his wife suggested that they will have a better life and his work life will be better in the Basque region he works at a print shop but is always the outside and the sense of tension there is at the Basque of the time the book is set the height of the recent troubles seems to simmer all around them as things turn for the worse he has a son but they chose to not take the family name of Felipe so we have the third generation of the family with Juan Jose or  Juanjo as he is known growing up in the height of the Basque regions as the famoly start to get involved with the world around them and Felipe often turns a blind eye or maybe doesn’t want to see what is happening around him. This is a story of one man’s life a man with morals in a world of fewer morals a man that tries to do the right thing but is often at odds with those around him.

But the years, now marked by the rhythm of that commute, which had gradually become as familar as his old road to the field, were passing comfortably. Asun, his wife, after a difficult adjustment period seemed to be feeling more and more at home as time went on, and their son- their elder son, because a year after they moved there, they’d had another one, and withthis one he had insited, perhaps for reason of nostalgia, on naming him Felipe – was well into his teenage years and had began not only to go out with his posee of friends but to be out with them at what might call every waking hour, in fact. To him, there was nothing more important at his pose, and no household routine or opinon, or, in any case, not his fathers, held the least valuefor him compared to those his friend would spout.

Caught between tradition and the real world at times

There is a dark shadow over this book with the Basque ETA situation it adds to the world they come to when they move to the Basque region this is a man that seems to lose every way he turns a quiet man that leaves all he knows to move to for a dream. But the reality sinks in the recurring theme of the Vulture is hoovering over is like the death of a family in a way death of a tradition. For me, I was reminded of the undercurrent that I felt visiting Northern Ireland in my youth at the height of troubles the constant sense of undercurrent that was there the normal world that isn’t normal. There is also the ease one can get caught up in the passion and fury that is in that world.

Winstons score – B – an insight into one mans life.

Dark Constellations by Pola Oloixarac

Dark Constellations by Pola Oloixarac

Argentinian fiction

Original title – Las constelaciones oscuras

Translator – Roy Kesey

Source – personal copy

I have another from the Grangta best Spanish writer list of a few years ago. This list has thrown up so many great writers over the last few years. Pola Oloixarac is an Argentinian writer she studied Philosophy and has written a number of pieces for various publications including New York times. She has written three novels this is her second the first novel has also been translated into English. She’s a founding editor of The Buenos Aires Review bilingual journal featuring contemporary literature in the Americas

On the final day of 1882, a group of explorers reached the sea that surrounds the crater of Famara, the volcanic mass that rises up from the archipelago of Juba. Like a fortress on the water , the crater’s aerial line shrouded the bay in grandeur. The travelers made land on a beach of black sqand crored by the tails of lizards, and began their climb along a mossy trail through a series of gorges that wound their way through the sinous formations of dark lava. Anchored in the bay,  their ship looked like an old dinosaur, its viscera extracted by parasites who lowered the cages, bronze instruments, wooden traps, and coils of rope into the sand amidst the boulders onshore

The opening as the head to discover new plants.

Dark Constellations is a work that involves three stories the first is a plant biologist on the canary islands discovering new plants. Then in the 1980s, we follow Cassio a hacker at the dawn of the internet we follow him from a kid entranced by computers and girls to a brilliant scholar and then a wonderful hacker.  Then in the near future, we have a group of scientists trying to discover a way of tracking people through there individual DNA. The latter two stories are interlinked as Max in the near future recruits Cassio he was a brilliant hacker in his day. As they use people’s biometric data to project their life and what will happen to them. Meanwhile, in 1882 the scientist Niklas Bruun has discovered a plant that he feels lets him connect with other species. Then in the near future, Max has made Cassio work on this algorithm as it is a new species as Max says. This is a mix of cyberpunk gen X and nods to the great explorers of the victorian age. A trio of tales that are wound together to a scary look at the future.

Cassio broke off all relationships with women, starting with the ones in his house. His natural satellites, Sonia and Yolanda, mother and maid, whom he perceived as inauthentic, united to form an incomprehensibly sadisitc caste. The are of his life coincidedwith the rise of women, considered a “Minority” , toward equal civil rights, but his mental life moved in the opposite direction, Soon his room began to stink of pizza and Coca Cola, sources of essential nutrients for growing young programmers. On the TV, ads showed blue liquids poured onto vaginal products”with wings” which didn’t help in the slightest. Was this what they had inside ?

Cassio struggle with his realtionships with Females whenhe was younger and became radical at times.

This is a clever look at the near future were Tech companies maybe have to much power the thought of DNA and over biometric being used to track us even lay the course of our lives. This is a storyline is one I have seen taken to its climax in the film Minority Report a Philp K dicks story there is a fell here she is a fan of his I have read a couple of his books years ago. From Cassio a rebel hacker his life is a classic blueprint of a lot of Tech giants from a scholar and backyard tech person. Is similar to the likes of Gates and Jobs but here it is set in Argentina. |cassio is also a classic Gen X character a slacker but then like so many gen x he gets caught up in the real world. This is a highly original book I had brought both her books as I had seen her as a writer that challenges the boundaries. Have you read this book?

Things we lost in the fire by Marianna Enriquez

Things we lost in the fire by Marianna Enriquez

Argentinean fiction

Original title – Las cosas que perdimos en el fuego

Translator – Megan McDowell

Source – personal copy

I’m reviewing today another book that tick both Spanish lit month and Women in translation month with yet another talent from Argentina. Marianna Enriquez studied Journalism and social communication, then she took a job as a journalist becoming deputy editor of arts and culture of the newspaper Pagina, She has published four novels and two collections of short stories this is her first work to be translated into English and given the content you can see a journalist eye behind this scary tales as they seem to connect to the dark past of the country.

The dirty kid and his mother sleep on three matteresses so worn out that, piled up , they’re the same hieght as a normal bed. The morther keeps what little clothing she has in several black carbage bags, and she has a backpack full of other things, I couldn’t say what they are. She doesn’t move from the corner, she stays there and begs for money in a gloomy monotonous voice. I don’t like the mother. Not because she’s irresponsible, or because she smoke crack and the ash burns her pregnant belly, or because I never once once saw her treat her son , the dirty kid, with kindness

The dirty Kid the opening story was he there ever or just a ghost touching people to remind them

There are twelve stories in this collection they cover things from kids pulling fingernails out, ghosts, dirty child beggars, and father disappearing. Opening with the dirty kid a woman living meets the dirty kid a beggar at the underground shaking hands and leaving his mark on people but was he really there as there is no sign of him when they come back with the police but there is a dead murder child that fits his descriptions.  There is a burnt beggar which appears in the title story. My favorite from the collection was the Inn a family go to meet the father who is working as a guide for the Inn. But when the guide he tells some tourists about the dark past of the Inn more than he should have done. Which was back in the day a police station one of those used for the dark activities that happened under the Junta. Then we have Adela house were they have three kids trying to challenge each other and eventually build up the courage to enter the local ghost house and they disappear.

For years ,Rocio’s father had worked at the inn as a tour guide: he brought the guest to the archaeological park, to the dam, and to the Salamanca cave, where he told them ghost stories about meetings between witches and devils, or about stinking, red eyed goats; furred snakes; and a basilik with blazing eyes. He was a star employee and was treated accordingly; he used Elena’s 4×4 when his truck broke down, he ate free at the restaurant whenever he wanted, he used the pool and football table without paying and around the townspeople said he was Elena’s lover. Rocio denied it saying her Father wouldn’t get mixed up with his boss, bot that snooty woman.

But when he tells people about the inns dark past he dissappears !! like so many before !!

Another wonderful collection of short stories from a female writer from Argentina I have enjoyed Samantha Schweblin collections in recent years if you enjoyed her collections this is one for you. Like Schweblin stories these are tainted with scars from there past and also the poverty that hits hards in the big city like Buenos Aires where there are so many fallen people on the edges this is a glimpse into there everyday horrific but for many the norm. In the dirty kid I was reminded at times of the great play an inspector calls where the fallen woman was seen by all there in the house and has died but was she the same or even real !! I enjoyed this collection it is the dying embers of the past still there in a piece like the “The INN ” which shows even thou it is now an inn the dark past of the police station is just below the surface. Death, murders, and male violence are all things she touches on in this collection. Have you read this collection?

 

Spanish and Portuguese summer reading months 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hope Richard doesn’t mind me going tonight with this but as the two countries face each other in the world cup tonight it seemed a good time to announce our fifth Spanish lit month well we do it for two months now and have expanded to include Portuguese literature as well for a second year. This years is an image of Lisbon I have change with the Prisma programme. I am looking forward to seeing the wide variety of books we get Richard usually rounds up through the month I will happily tweet any reviews on twitter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is a list of the spanish speaking countries from the first Spanish lit month.

 

 

Image result for portuguese speaking countries

Here is another of the Portuguese speaking world.I will be featuring more Portuguese novels this year. As the last year, I have been buying a lot of books from Portugal to try and build up this area on the blog.

 

 

 

 

Image result for dona barbara book

We have chosen one read along well I have I think Richard may want to choose a Portuguese novel as I choose this. Dona Barbara is considered one of the greatest Latin American novels. It is in the list of the 100 best novels from PBS  . This for me also has themes in the book are ones I love the clashing of traditional and modern ideas within a society, the clash of city and country. It has been made into a couple of films and is considered one of the best portraits of Venezuelan society at the time the book is set.  We are thinking of posts in the last week of August and discussing the book around them. We can also talk on twitter about the book.

Sorry update we running this over July and August .

Spanish Lit month 2017

Grant ask Richard and I if we were going to do another Spanish lit month and we said yes rather late the next two months will give everyone chance to take a few Spanish language translations off their TBR piles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are my choice first a book I have read but isn’t due out yet This Mexican novel follows Lucina a young Mexican writer, like most of her fellow writers she has come to New York. But a genetic condition means her eyes haemorrhage return home her life takes a turn.

 

 

Next up is the three Spanish novels from Peter Owen as part of the world series Nona’s room is a collection of short stories, with a female perspective.Inventing love follows a man that receives a call when a lover has died, but he didn’t know the lover but decides to see where going to her home and funeral leads him. Wold moon follows four Republican rebels on the run during the civil war in the land they grew up in trying to stay alive.

 

Then I have these three books, Camilo Jose Cela, I have read before, the hive is his most famous books and is a snapshot of the end of the civil war told through three hundred voices. Rafael Dieste tales and inventions of Felix Muriel is a collection of quirky short stories about Felix growing up and those around him. Then it is amung strange victims by another talented Mexican writer Daniel Saldana Paris a novel set i the Mexican Capital. I have a few other books on my TBR pile to add to the five I have to read here.

 

 

 

 

 

So what books are you choosing for Spanish Lit month ?

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