Autoportrait by Edouard Levé

Autoportrait by Edouard Levé

French Literature

Original title – Autoportrait

Translator Lorin Stein

Source – personnel copy

Generous of lyric, Jehovah’s Witness
Stands in Cologne Marktplatz
Drums come in
When the drums come in fast
Drums to shock, into brass evil

What have you got in that paper bag?
Is it a dose of Vitamin C?
Ain’t got no time for Western medicine
I am Damo Suzuki

The fuck-up like red acid rain
Give it to me Daki every day
Who is Mr. Karlheinz Stockhausen?
Introduce me
I’m Damo Suzuki

Soundtracks, Soundtracks
Melched together, the lights
The lights above you

I choose The fall as the lyrics from Mark E smith have the same choppy style as Leve and this song one my favourites is an Homage to Damo Suzuki the Can member .

I read Leve other book Suicide a couple of years ago , so last week when I was in Nottingham , I was looking for some books to read in the large waterstones that is there , I found this and two other books from Dalkey archive .Leve started as a painter then became a photographer (he mainly photographed cities Florence , Oxford , New york amoung them . He then moved from art to writing in a book that described 500 made up work of art (This is one I really want to read by him ) He then wrote this and then later Suicide which after he finished this book he killed himself .

I will never know how many books I have read. Raymond Roussel, Charles Baudelaire, Marcel Proust, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Antonio Tabucchi, André Breton, Oliver Cadiot, Jorge Luis Borges, Andy Warhol, Gertrude Stein, Ghérasim Luca, Georges Perec, Jacques Roubaud, Joe Brainard, Roberto Juarroz, Guy Debord, Fernando Pessoa, Jack Kerouac, La Rouchefoucauld, Baltasar Gracian, Roland Barthes, Walt Whitman, Nathalie Quintane, the Bible, and Bret Easton Ellis all matter to me. I have read less of the Bible than of Marcel Proust. I prefer Nathalie Quintane to Baltasar. Guy Debord matters more to me than Roland Barthes. Roberto Juarroz makes me laugh more than Andy Warhol. Jack Keuroac makes me want to live more than Charles Baudelaire. La Rochefoucauld depresses me less than Bret Easton Ellis. Olivier Cadiot cheers me up more than André Breton. Joe Brainard is less affirmative than Walt Whitman. Raymond Roussel surprises me more than Baltasar Gracian, but Baltasar Gracian makes me more intelligent .

I’ve read some of these writers it shows what he read although he said elsewhere he reread a lot and he  had read four biographies .I feel that was good thing as this is a unique take on a life .

Now this is a book the writer himself called literary cubism .The book as the title suggests is a portrait , one can assume it is Leve himself if not a mix of himself and people he knows .What we get is a stream of short sentences that tells a mans life but in small unconnected parts . So this is a life that is just told in facts and those facts come small , large , past ,present likes and dislikes. BUt also to the facts come some sayings , feelings and quirky ideas all in short shots  . Now the first page mentions Georges Perec’s book and yes this is from the same oeuvre of fiction as it is made up of unconnected parts in a way no narrative just a journey .Gilbert and George see there lives as an art work dress eat listen live the same life . Well this is part of what Leve is doing to me this is closer to art than literature .What we get is as he says a cubist view of a man all angles and bold lines .

I prefer a ruin to a monument
A short quote but this is the other side to the facts is what made Leve tick .

As I say I view this as art in words .An expansion of ideas that first surfaced in Conceptual art as a movement , with artist like Rauschenberg , whom used a telegram as a self  portrait in the early 1960 , this was first of many examples of telegrams being used . Something in this book remind me of the sparse nature of  this writing ,when people had to send telegrams , like the tweets of the days every word matter so facts  became important and the dressing of what we said didn’t matter . This is like a set of telegrams that have been cut to just those sentences then pulled out and stuck together , like William Burroughs used to do when he wrote and later David Bowie .Another way he could write this book is like in the film Finding forrester the main character a writer says one way he starts to write is to just type and get the rhythm of typing and let your mind wander , I get the rhythm of keys being tapped I have that when I am typing my blog posts .I also choose a quote about the writers he like as a guide to what influenced him .

What is your favourite book that maybe is more art than Literature ?

 

The Adventures of the busts of Eva Peron by Carlos Gamerro

 

THE ADVENTURE OF tBoEP _RGB

The adventures of the busts of Eva Peron by Carlos Gamerro

Argentinean fiction

Original title – La aventura de los bustos de Eva

Translator Ian Barnett

Source – Review copy

Please, holy Eva, will you feed a hungry child?
For I love you–tell Heaven I’m doing my best
I’m praying for you, even though you’re already blessed
Please, mother Eva, will you feed a hungry child?
For I love you–tell Heaven I’m doing my best
I’m praying for you, even though you’re already blessed

CHE
Turn a blind eye, Evita,
Turn a blind eye

I have watched Evita the film once and a book about Eva Peron in a small way maybe need lyrics about her .

Another trip to latin America for spanish lit month ,this time to Argentina . I revisit a writer that I have reviewed twice before on the blog Carlos Gamerro his books Open Secret and The islands  . Like his earlier books this looks again at the past of Argentina and like the other stories it takes a different angle . Carlos Gamerro has written a number of books , he has also translated a number of works into English by writers such as Shakespeare , Auden and Harold Bloom .This is his third book to be translated to English .

Yon know the latest thing they’ve come up with ? They want us to put a bust of Eva Peron in each of our offices .Even in this one !Can you think of anything more absurd ?

Marrone didn’t answer , as he was already mentally totting up the number of busts needed to meet the new demand .eighth floor : the “Vahalla” , the meeting room and two other offices ; seventh floor : nine offices , hallway … The hallways too

The task ma be absurd but Ernesto is up for the task .Like Don Quixote with his absurd tasks .

The book is set in the 1970 the time of the dirty war in Argentina a subject I have touch on before with other books from Argentina I have reviewed on the blog a book like A funny dirty war for example . This as ever being Carlos Gamerro has an angle to it a business magnet has been kidnapped and the people who have kidnapped him have set a task of getting a bust of Eva Peron put in every office of Fausto Tamerlan construction company . Now the man tasked with obtaining the bust is one of Tamerlan underlings Ernesto  Marrone ,here is a man who reads the books on success , books about Don Quixote .In fact to him this is maybe the mission of a knight errand to save the man by getting the maid .This journey takes him through the past to the present from top to bottom of Argentinean society how does a man who is maybe caught in the rat race given the chance to escape and become a hero cope .He has the books but is that all he will need ?

In this very spirit  Cervantes celebrated hero , Don Quixote of La Manche , decides one fine day to turn his back on the meagreness of his material life and the shallowness of the world around him – gutless mediocre folk devoted to traditional ways of doing things , for whom creativity is anathema – and strikes out on the highways in search of adventure .Don Quixote’s gesture encapsulates the adventurous spirit of today’s businessmen

One of the business books that Ernesto likes to read happens to be about Don Quixote using his deeds in the modern business world .

 

There is many echos to me to the great Cervantes and his classic book Don Quixote  in this book, Ernesto like the Don Quixote  likes to read books now given his books aren’t about knight .But the knights of the modern age those business men . We see what in a way would be a good reality show to prove yourself to your boss with the impossible task .Add to that a splatter of history about the time and about the woman herself Eva Peron , her story gets wound up in the story .So  Ernesto is tasked with his modern crusade of getting the busts in place .To the backdrop of the mad seventies in Argentina .

Have you a favourite books about Argentina’s past .

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  ?

Marks of Identity by Juan Goytisolo

 

Marks of Identity by Juan Goytisolo

Spanish fiction

Original title – Sensa de Identitad

Translator – Gregory Rabassa

Source – personnel copy

 

“Paper Planes”

[x2]
I fly like paper, get high like planes
If you catch me at the border I got visas in my name
If you come around here, I make ’em all day
I get one down in a second if you wait

[x2]
Sometimes I think sitting on trains
Every stop I get to I’m clocking that game
Everyone’s a winner, we’re making our fame
Bona fide hustler making my name

[x4]
All I wanna do is (BANG BANG BANG BANG!)
And (KKKAAAA CHING!)
And take your money

Paper planes by Mia a song about escaping and becoming and Exile was perfect choice for this book .

Well on to book three for spanish lit month and I feel its time to throw a classic into the mix and the second book on this blog by Juan Goytisolo .He is often mentioned as a future Nobel winner , even thou he is quite controversal figure in Spain  as a writer .This is the first in a trilogy of books about exile , Spain and being  Spanish , the other two books Count Julian and Juan the landless I think will be review in the next two Spanish lit months next year and the year after . He is married to Proust cousin and lives in Marrakech , both his siblings are writers as well .

Established in Paris comfortably established in Paris more years of residence in France than in Spain with more french habits than Spanish ones including even the classic on of living with the daughter of a well-known exile a regular resident of the Ville Lumiere  and episodic visitor to his homeland in order to bear parisan witness to aspects of Spanish life …

The opening lines a man who is more French now than Spanish , but Spanish in his heart

Marks of Identity is the story of Alvaro Mendiola . The basic story is he is return in the early 1960’s after spending the years following the Spanish civil war in Exile in France , switzerland and round europe with his wife . He returns to see the world he left behind change , this is the start of the package holiday era and Alvaro see a changed landscape . In which he remembers his past the childhood year before the civil war , his student days what made him and what became his identity is in the roots of his youth .Add to this a number of piece about the history of the time .

While you were passing through the residential and aristocratic section – “modern” or Gaudi mausoleums; the hybrid cross between tomb and a summerhouse – you cast your eyes around for the tomb of the Mendiolas – an exact and prim copy , you remembered , of the pretentious Dumo of Milan .

Alvaro remember in his present , the  places he saw in exile (also it mentions Gaudi as I referenced his build in my review )

Well it all sounds straight forward doesn’t it . But no this  novel is maybe is like that great Spanish church Sagrada familia in Barcelona in fact the city Alvaro is returning to , this book is a mix of styles and even the narrative isn’t straight but more a mosaic of a man’s life-like those great mosaics in the Sagrada . Alvaro’s story has been broken up and is feed to us piece by piece as we build a picture of this man’s life and youth those young years that make the man  and why he choose exile  rather than staying .This is a book about place and the deeper questions that brings to us  , why are we here , where do we belong ? what is our home ? and does time change how we feel about our homeland ? Given that Juan Goytisolo himself has spent most of his life in exile from Spain in Paris , which is the main place Alvaro spends his exile .

Have you a favourite book about exiles ?

 

Uppsala woods by Alvaro Coloomer

UPPSALA WOODS

Uppsala woods by Alvaro Colomer

Spanish fiction

Original title – Los bosques de Upsala

Translator – Jonathan Dunne

Source – review copy

I never realised the lengths I’d have to go,
All the darkest corners of a sense I didn’t know.
Just for one moment, I heard somebody call,
Looked beyond the day in hand, there’s nothing there at all.

Now that I’ve realised how it’s all gone wrong,
Gotta find some therapy, this treatment takes too long.
Deep in the heart of where sympathy held sway,
Gotta find my destiny, before it gets too late.

I chosen the last two verses of 24 by Joy Division as they maybe reflect Ian curtis mind for those of you that don’t know he commit suicide shortly after record the bands second album.

 

Now my second book for this years Spanish lit month is from a Spanish based publisher Hispabooks  whos motto is a great one for Spanish lit month I feel Spanish literature for worldwide readers isn’t this just what this month is about . I have read two books by them and enjoyed them both there is a number on their site to check out .Alvaro Colomer is a journalist reporting on such things as prostitution .this book is the last part of a rough trilogy of urban death . Also according to his spanish wiki page he is a huge Thomas Bernhard fan ( aren’t we all lol ) . This is his first book to be translated into English and I am only a year late in reviewing it .

My wife isn’t hiding under the bed , or behind the shower curtain , or anywhere else in this apartment , but she has left her bag on the coffee table , so te only place she could be is at the neighbour’s house , This old woman who lives in apartment two on the seventh floor .

Julio maybe for the first time glimpse what is to come with Elena here when he arrives home and she isn’t there

Uppsala woods deals with a married couple Julio and Elena . Elena tells her husband she is losing the will to live , she wants to die . This is the story of the days that follow him finding out his wife no long wants to live and how he goes to work every day and pictures coming back to her hanging from the centre of their house which is built-in the shape of the cross . This shows how the Husband tries to stop Elena getting drawn further into the darkness and what do you do when you can’t stop this happening .What happens when he returns on their wedding anniversary and there is no one there it seems ? Why has she suddenly hidden in their closet

All of a sudden three days have gone since my wife sought the confines of the closet . In all this time , we have avoided talking about what happened , letting the television chat in our place and even turning a deaf ear when , on a tabloid talk show , a guest described his grotesque attempt to hang himself using his mother’s pantyhose .

Suicide and mental illness are two of the hardest things to talk about maybe more books like this would make it less of a taboo .

Now I have made this seem doom and gloom , but no this is maybe a spanish cousin to Bernhard Julio is like a Bernhard character in that laconic way of trying to battle his wife’s depression . Julio is a classic Bernhard male in the way he views the world  in terms of black and white .But never quite getting it right he is an entomologist so sees the world maybe to black and white where as Elena is firmly caught in the grey of the world getting drawn ever closer to the Black abyss . I like how he tackled death and Suicide here it is a subject not often touch on in fiction in the right way .As Julio tries to hold on to his wife by holding in safety . Also the allusion to the church in a subtle ways the house being built-in a cross and Elena may die in (or on the cross ) so to speak .Powerful book I hope Hispabook publish the other two books in this trilogy .

Have you a favourite book dealing with mental health ?

 

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