The winterlings by Cristina Sanchez- Andrade

The Winterlings by Cristina Sanchez-Andrade

Spanish fiction

Original title – Las Inviernas

Translator – Samuel Ritter

Source – review copy

I was grabbed by this when it had a quote on the back cover by Manuel Rivas calling her writing Original and Unusual was a plus point for me having enjoyed his books, I knew this would be one for me. Cristina Sanchez-Andrade has a degree in law and mass media, she has written for numerous papers in Spain and has published seven novels.In 2013 she was shortlisted for the Herralde prize one of the top prizes in Spain. She has also written a novel about Coco Channel.

Don Manuel , the priest in Tierra de Cha, used to sit between the two winterlings, who were only little girls back then. He was short and fat, an absolute glutton. He was always somewhere between dinner and Mass. As soon as he finished the sermon, he’d be out and into the street. With great strides, pulling up his cassock to keep the manure off it, he would cross the square to eat his lunch. While the maid was tying a napkin around his neck and serving him, he positively burbled with pleasure.His mouth watered  at the sight of what lay before him : a hearty broth

I loved the imagery this passage evoked in me

The book follows the return of two sisters to a small village in Galicia Tierra De Cha, the two sisters have return after many years away. They have come back to their grandfather’s house. They have grown since they left but the place it self is just the same as the place they fled many years earlier. In a dark past that the village has hidden Delores and Saladina have their own secrets as well they are on course for disaster when a glimpse of light happens the sisters love the glamour of the film world and hear that the American actress Ava Gardener is to come to their part of Spain to make a film and they need some stand ins the sisters feel they could fill this roles. What will happen will they get the part or will everyone have to face their own pasts at last ?They are also drawn to the sea , why !

Throughout the following days, Dolores heard it while she went about her daily chores – immense and powerful and even nearer, turning her actual world into a narrow and boring place – an ocean pulling at her , calling her :”Did you hear that Ava Gardner is coming to Spain ?

To Spain ?

Ava Gardner coming to Spaaaaain ?

Sometimes , the sea was like a cornfield, with waves that ebbed and flowed. Dolores was in the middle of it, it smelt of salt, and that smell impregnated her clothes and hair .

The sea is a large draw to the sisters

I loved this it remind me what I love about fiction set in small villages where everyone knows everyone no matter how far you go from the village they will always remember your past when you return . What Cristina Snachez does so well here is build up the feeling of the dark past the sisters where part of . Also the feel of returning to a village the way they are still part of the place but looked at as thou they aren’t they’ve grown out of the place the sister have had their eyes open to the world by the world they have seen and the films they have watch , hence their wanting to be part of the Ava Gardener production. This also has the feel of an oral tradition of storytelling that Galicia is well-known for. This book is also a perfect choice for the forthcoming Woman in translation month .

what is your favourite Village based novel ?

The lone man by Bernardo Atxaga

 

The Lone man by Bernardo Atxaga

Spanish (Basque) fiction

Original title – Gizona bere bakardadean

Translator – Magaret Jull Costa

Source – personnel copy

 

ILW 2016

Well I have managed again to mix Lisa Indigenous lit week and Spanish lit month by reviewing Bernardo Atxaga one of the leading basque writers as Basque is considered an indigenous culture in europe  and he is a  personnel favourite of mine . I have reviewed before Seven house in france  and have also read a couple of his novels in pre blogging days. Atxaga studied in Bilbao economics and then philosophy in Barcelona, he has written seven novels  six of which are available in English.

“Boniek is currently a key figure in the world of soccer ” Carlos read on a page of the sports section lying on the carpet.He had spotted the article as soon as he looked away from the screen. “As we have had occasion to see in Barcelona , this most popular , much – admired figure is idolized by his fans .His team mates have tremendous respect for him too, for no one in Poland can forget the way he stood up for Mlynarczyck when the latter turned up hopelessly drunk at Warsaw airport

Boniek the star of 82 maybe Carlos reading this unaware his old team mates need him .

The book is set in 1982 and follows the owner of a hotel in Barcelona , that has been the home of the polish team. But also at the same time the owner Carlos whom had in an earlier life been also a member of ETA(The Basque terrorist group )  of the hotel has been hiding two Basque gunmen turn up one from his own past on the run after shooting at the police . Which the police know in a way but have to draw them out but at the same time he wants to draw the police out of hiding. Along side this we see the wonderful Polish team featuring the unlikely looking football star Zbigniew Boniek who lead his team to the semi final so over the last few matches of the 1982 world cup we see a cat and mouse game an outsider football team captures the mind of the public and two men in hiding trying to escape.

“Those stupid bloody newspaper say that Jon and I are romantically involved, but it’s not true, in fact it just complicates matters” She concluded, starting to swear again. Carlos deduced that the woman was referring to the articles in the tabloid press reporting the shoot-out with the police she and Jon had had weeks before, articles that compared them to Bonnie and clyde. despite that, there was something about what she had said didn’t quite add up .

Jon and his friend turn up but is all it seems with them ?

There is a wonderful counter point of world cup matches with Poland winning and the drama inside and outside their hotel with Carlos and the two gunmen in hiding. The backdrop of football and the ever more unlikely progress of the Polish team sees a journey of a man from where he is into his hidden past Carlos is a man who tried to run from his past to only nearly get away to the arrival of the two gunmen amid the chaos of the Polish team and the press trying to get them. For me this is as good as anything written by Graham Greene , it is a wonderful lit thriller using football and basque terrorism in the same book is a masterstroke. I was remind of my own memories of the 82 world cup which mixed bot Gerry armstrong the Northern irish strciker scoring and the red haired polish mastero Boniek a wonderfully talent player. A great choice for both Spanish lit month as it highlights the Basque issue and because of the a great choice also for Lisa’s indigenous lit week.

Have you a favourite basque writer ?

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 ?

The sky over Lima by Juan Gómez Bárcena

The sky over Lima by Juan Gómez Bárcena

Spanish fiction

Original title – Cielo de Lima

Translator Andrea Rosenberg

Source – review copy

Well I kick of this Spanish lit month with a new name to most English readers Juan Gomez Barcena. This was his debut novel it won the Ojo critico prize and was shortlisted for another major prize in Spain. He studied comparative literature , philosophy and History. He was also on a list of the best Spanish writer under thirty in Spain.

At first it’s just a letter drafted many times: dearest friend, respected poet, most esteemed sir, a different opening for every sheet or paper that ends up in a crumpled ball under the desk, glory of Spanish literature, most distinguished Ramon Jimenez, peerless bard, comrade. The next day the mulatta servant will sweep up the wads of paper scattered across the floor, thinking they’re the poems of the young master of the house, carlos rodriguez.

The opening as they try as themselves to write to Jimenez before making up Georgina to write to him .

This is one of those books that tells a real event in a novel form. The event surrounds the writing of letters to the Spanish poet Juan Ramon Jimenez from two fellow poets in Peru well in Lima. The two poets Jose and Carlos decide on a plan to get the latest work from Jimenez which has yet to reach the book shops of lima they write to him as a Peruvian lady called Georgina. what follows in the book is a series of letter between the two (well three in reality) as Jimenez falls for Gerogina and the world that is described Peru in 1904 a town changing through the eyes of a young woman makes Jimenez fall for the place and woman. A tale of love across the sea that inspired the poet to write some love poems about this woman.We see the two poets abandon their own poems to grab on to the coat tails of Jimenez and his poems.

So he has to write about love. But what does he know about that?It could be that Carlos is more apprehensive about this than he initially seemed and we must attribute to him a second fear: the terror that the story of Juan Ramon and Georgina will ultimately reveal nothing more than how little his own life is worth.becasue all good fiction is rooted in genuine emotion, as the professor put it, which means that to write about love a novelist must look to his experiences, make use of everything he’s learned in a woman’s arms.

Carlos wonders what the letters will be made of when it turns to love letters .

An interesting and strange work to open this spanish lit month. It takes a corner of history and opens it up back to a time when a written word meant more letters were the way to keep in contact and people could fall in love over the written word . This is one for the fans of Bolano or Vila-Matas poets in a wild town of lima in the day remind me of Bolano world of poets in Mexico and the fact this was a true story some what Jimenez had exchange letters with a woman from Peru.Brought back memories of the way Vila-Matas uses places and the writers associated with them to place his stories in context.A fun debut novel that shows the power of the written word over men and the power books can have over other men as that is how the story started. A wonderful opening gambit for this Spanish lit month.

What have you planned for Spanish lit month ?

 

Aliss at the fire by Jon Fosse

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Aliss at the fire by Jon Fosse

Norwegian fiction

Original title – det er als

Translator – Damion Searls

Source – personnel copy

One thing I have started to do since I moved house is buy a few very cheap books from amazon of writers I have had on my to read list forever. Jon Fosse is a point in case I have had him down for a few years as a writer to read since he started to feature near the top of the nobel hopefuls every year. I was a bit put of by the fact he is compared to beckett but when I saw this a recent book from Dalkey archive for under a pound plus postage I couldn’t resist it. I’m , pleased I did as this is my book of the year so far. I can see why Fosse has won every major prize at home and around the world barring the big one the Nobel.

I’ve seen much better boats, she says

I like this boat, Asle says

But couldn’t you get yourself a bigger boat a safer boat, Signe says

I don’t want a new boat , Asle says.

Why do you like this boat so much,Signe says

I knew the man who built it, and he built it for me,Asle says

He built boats his whole life, the man who built it and he built one for me, he says

Yes , Signe says

The boat had been a worry for his wife Signe before the day he drowned in the Fjord as she watched in the Black water.

 

Aliss at fire is one of those single paragraph work of monolgue, at time I was reminded of Thomas  Bernhard for this long winded style. The book is told as a widowed wife looks back on the her life with her dead husband Asle , but also the family that has been on that spot next to the fjord where she sits on a bench looking out at the black water like she did the night her husband’s boat ran into trouble. She imagines the family over time in other boats other deaths on the fjord her connection to the boat times she asked him if he wanted a new boat for the lake and he said no he was happy with his old boat.This is an inner monologue of time drifting her life now than and before as ghosts seem to haunt here in the dark coming out to touch her almost, at points she even touches her own body to feel close to the past.A tale of a woman trying to cope with death.

But forward, it’s moving, and the boat moves out across fjord, out father and father, in the wind, in the rain and even through the darkness is dense and thick around him in a weird way it’s not dark he thinks, because the fjord is shining black then it it’s not really that cold, he is wearing his thick sweater keeping him warm from rowing,he thinks and he looks back over his shoulder and there up ahead, far away there, there near the middle of the Fjord, what is that over there ?

Asle on the water in the boat he had built for him. The use of black is interesting.

This is one of those short novellas ,  that last with you as a reader, I thought when i put it down it was like a lost Peirene in a way.The story is dark as dark as the black water , hair and nights that are a recurring theme in the book boats also crop up a lot maybe as a vessel from this life to the next maybe the Fjord is this families river of sticks. As I said I was reminded of Bernhard but also maybe the constant mention of black hair , black water remind me of Dylan Thomas under Milkwood especially took me back to seeing that as a one piece monologue by Richard Burton Nephew .This is death playing chess or the dark sections of a film by Roy Anderson the real dark side of Nordic life Fjord and boats are dangerous. Fosse may well win the Nobel in the next few years.

Have you read Fosse ?

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