domingo, 27 de julio de 2014

Spanish Lit Month 2014: 7/20-7/26 Links

As some of you might already know, my partner in crime for Spanish Lit Month 2014, Stu of Winstonsdad's Blog, recently announced that he'll be "carrying on a bit into August" with his reading and writing for the event.  Wonderful news!  I must confess that I was particularly happy to hear that because 1) I wish every month were Spanish Lit Month, and 2) I seem to have fallen way off the pace to finish Guillermo Cabrera Infante's Tres tristes tigres [Three Trapped Tigers] in time for this week's scheduled group read of the book.  With that in mind, I've decided to join Stu in postponing the closing ceremonies for Spanish Lit Month until the end of the first couple of weeks of August.  You're of course welcome to carry on with Stu and me or fall off by the wayside as you see fit, but for the purposes of these SLM 2014 weekly link round-ups, I'll continue to collect any/all Spanish language literature posts people put up through August 14th or until whenever I finish the Cabrera Infante novel for the group read--whichever comes later.  Slackers who have yet to participate in Spanish Lit Month: there's still plenty of time--we got your back!

Bellezza, Dolce Bellezza
The Tunnel by Ernesto Sabato

Grant, 1streading's Blog
The Return by Roberto Bolaño
The Islands by Carlos Gamerro

JacquiWine, JacquiWine's Journal
Severina by Rodrigo Rey Rosa

Mel U, The Reading Life
"True Milk" by Aixa de la Cruz
"Clara" by Roberto Bolaño

Miguel, St. Orberose
The Fragrance of Guava: Conversations with Gabriel García Márquez by Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza

Richard, Caravana de recuerdos
"La gallina degollada" by Horacio Quiroga
"El matadero" by Esteban Echeverría
Nadie nada nunca by Juan José Saer

Stu, Winstonsdad's Blog
In Search of Klingsor by Jorge Volpi
Lizard Tails by Juan Marsé
Outlaws by Javier Cercas
Leaf Storm by Gabriel García Márquez

Tony, Tony's Reading List
Dead Stars by Álvaro Bisama

Tony Messenger, Messengers Booker (and more)
Monsieur Pain by Roberto Bolaño

sábado, 26 de julio de 2014

Nadie nada nunca

Nadie nada nunca (Seix Barral, 2013)
by Juan José Saer
France, 1980

At the white house by the river in Santa Fe province where many of Argentinean expat Juan José Saer's almost uniformly great novels are set, el Gato ["Cat"] Garay and his lover Elisa languidly spend a couple of days--longer? time seems to to have become suspended in the February heat--drinking ice cube-laden wine, making love, reading, and otherwise going about their daily routines.  An occasional visitor in the form of their friend, the journalist Tomatis, and a young boy, el Ladeado, joins them; other than that, the only other person who regularly crosses their path is the lifeguard at the beach on the river who seems both introverted and unduly curious about what's going on around him.  It turns out that there's a serial killer of horses on the loose, though, and el Ladeado has brought a horse for el Gato to look after for a while because the horse's owner thinks that the animal will be safer there than in town.  One night, however, shots ring out.  Although relatively little else takes place action-wise in the aptly named Nadie nada nunca [available in an English translation by Helen Lane as Nobody Nothing Ever but marred by one of the worst covers on a paperback I've ever seen and Lane's unfortunate decision to convert the nickname "el Ladeado" into the ridiculous nonsense nickname of "Tilty"], as usual with Saer the writing is often hypnotic and riveting anyway on account of his insistent repetitiveness ("Febrero, el mes irreal" ["February, the unreal month"] is a periodic refrain), the ongoing shifts in perspective, and some bold experimental flourishes (i.e. the unannounced insertion of a jarring five-page extract or pseudo-extract from Sade's Philosophy in the Bedroom at the start of chapter XI, the provocation only revealed when we're told that "en ese punto de su lectura y de sus reflexiones" ["at that point in his reading and his reflections"], el Gato raised his head from the book he was reading [176]).  But what sets this book apart from, say, the last two Saer novels I read, 1974's El limonero real and 1985's Glosa?  For one thing, Nadie nada nunca is I think justly famous among Saer fans and critics for its powerful anti-Dirty War allegory published, like fellow Argentine Ricardo Piglia's likeminded Respiración artificial which came out the same year, at the height of the Dirty War in 1980.  Approximately halfway through the novel, for example, the reader learns just how and when the horses along the coast started being killed and how the senseless savagery of the gunshots to the horses' heads in the middle of the night and the slashing of the horses' bodies after they were already dead understandably created a climate of fear, mistrust, and paranoia in the community:  "Al principio, todo el mundo esperaba, de un momento a otro, descubrir al amanacer nuevos caballos mutilados en cualquier punto de la costa" ["In the beginning, everybody expected, from one moment to the next, to discover new mutilated horses at daybreak at points along the coast"].  This climate of fear, mistrust, and paranoia isn't limited to people either for, if "el miedo desapareció, de los hombres por menos" ["the fear disappeared, among humans at least"] during the lulls between the killings, "...los caballos seguían nerviosos y un extraño apenas si les podía acercar" ["the horses continued being agitated, and a stranger could scarcely approach them"] (104).  In short, strong stuff on a par with the author's best in many ways--and a work in which the retrospective sense of menace that accompanies and colors events here is amplified, so to speak, for those who know that el Gato and Elisa will be disappeared from the same white house by the river in a later Saer novel.

Juan José Saer (1937-2005) in his hometown of Serodino, Santa Fe (photographer unknown)

viernes, 25 de julio de 2014

El matadero

"El matadero"
by Esteban Echeverría
Argentina, 1871

Vegetarian or not, it's easy enough to get grossed out by Esteban Echeverría's "El matadero" ["The Slaughterhouse," written c. 1840 and published posthumously in 1871].  Buenos Aires in the 1830s.  During the course of over a fortnight without beef accompanied by the quasi-surf and turf double whammy of a flood of almost biblical proportions served up to area residents at the same pestilential time, the state of hunger in the city is such that even the thousands of rats who normally survive off the scraps of the cattle slaughtering trade "todos murieron o de hambre o ahogados en sus cuevas por la incesante lluvia" ["all died either of hunger or were drowned in their holes by the incessant rain"] (26 in the Spanish original, 6 in John Incledon's translation).  To prevent the human inhabitants of the future metropolis from suffering the same inhuman fate, an emergency shipment of some 50 steer is sent to the slaughterhouse at the south of the city in order to tide people over.  The good news proclaimed by the start of the slaughter is greeted by the desperate behavior of scavengers who hide globs of fat in between their "tetas" ["tits"] (31, 10 in the translation) or in their pants to sneak away with free goodies, kids arguing at knife point over delicious offal freshly stolen from the butcher, and--in a culmination of the raw civilization and barbarism style "visceral realism" all too freely practiced by the narrator up to this point--a young boy is suddenly (and graphically) decapitated when a wild bull breaks free.  The "lingering" description of the decapitation scene, in reality all of only one sentence long, almost made me as queasy as if I were watching Oldboy on a first date with a shy church girl.  OK, with that farfetched analogy now fortunately behind us, I suppose that now is as good a time as any to let on that the descriptive excesses of "El matadero" provide a sort of covering fire for Echeverría's real aim in the story: to attack the regime of the caudillo Juan Manuel de Rosas and the local church authorities that backed his dictatorship.  Although I suspect that the mere mention of the 19th century hostilities between the unitarios (Unitarians) and the federales (Federalists) in Argentina may drive everybody but your humble servant into a mad stampede for the exits, I'm going to risk it here because the unnamed narrator of Echeverría's story himself draws attention to the Sarmiento-like belief that the spectacle of the violent anarchy on display at the slaughterhouse was "animado y pintoresco, aunque reunía todo lo horriblemente feo, inmundo y deforme de una pequeña clase proletaria peculiar del Río de la Plata" ["lively and picturesque, even though it brought together all the horrible ugliness, filth, and deformity of a small proletarian class peculiar to the Río de la Plata region"] (28 in the original, 8 in the translation).  Or more succinctly, a "simulacro en pequeño...éste del modo bárbaro con que se ventilan en nuestro país las cuestiones y los derechos individuales y sociales" ["miniature version of the barbaric way individual and social issues and rights are aired in our country"] (32, 11 in the translation).  While "El matadero"'s social commentary is heavyhanded it is rarely dull and, even at a remove of approximately 175 years from the time of its writing, it still strikes me as an undeniably audacious work in terms of its style--in particular its attempt to replicate the day to day colloquial speech of that "small proletarian class peculiar to the Río de la Plata region" that Echeverría looked down on--in terms of its occasionally humorous tone, and in terms of the hyper violence with which it punctuates its themes: at the conclusion of the story, for example, a young man is stripped nude by a mob, tied face down to a table, and threatened with sodomy or torture by butcher's shears.  As an added bonus for Argentinophile readers, this story serves up one final, uncomfortably ironic historical/fiction treat: testimony of an Afro-Argentine presence in 1830s Buenos Aires that's nowhere to be found in today's modern city.

Esteban Echeverría (1805-1851)

Echeverría's "El Matadero" (spelled with a capital "M" here but almost nowhere else for some reason) is the lead-off story in El terror argentino: cuentos curated by Elvio E. Gandolfo and Eduardo Hojman (Buenos Aires: Alfaguara, 2002, 19-43).  The English translations in the body of the post above come from John Incledon's translation of "The Slaughterhouse" available in Seymour Menton's The Spanish American Short Story: A Critical Anthology (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1980, 3-22).  A comic book adaptation of the work with a particularly insightful introduction by Ricardo Piglia ("Echeverría y el lugar de la ficción," pp. 8-10) plus the artwork of Enrique Breccia ("Esteban Echeverría, El matadero," pp. 11-19) can be found in Piglia's La Argentina en pedazos that was mentioned in the previous post (Buenos Aires: Ediciones de la Urraca, 1993).  Breccia's slaughterhouse image above is from the first frame of his mini comic book.
If the FacundoCivilización y barbarie-like description of "El matadero"'s "relato de la violencia política local, puesta en escena de la permanente lucha entre civilización y barbarie" ["account of local political violence (and) staging of the permanent conflict between civiliaztion and barbarism"] seems to make it a curious choice for a short story anthology dedicated to works of "terror," note that Gandolfo and Hojman are quick to explain that one character's "muy concreta amenaza de violación a manos de los carniceros" ["very concrete threat of rape at the hands of the butchers"], the blood which flows "incesante y terrorífica" ["incessantly and frighteningly"] throughout the story, and "la muerte casual, gráfica y atroz de un niño" ["the casual, graphic, and dreadful death of a child"] convert it into "un auténtico cuento de terror colectivo" ["an authentic short story about collective terror"] (22).  More on the links between "El matadero" and Facundo coming soon.  In the meantime, our friend Tom at Wuthering Expectations has a standout post on "El matadero" and the origins of the Argentinean Literature of Doom here & the Incledon translation of "The Slaughterhouse" can be accessed through Google Books online here.

martes, 22 de julio de 2014

La gallina degollada

"La gallina degollada"
by Horacio Quiroga
Argentina, 1917

One of the cooler things about the gory tale of terror "La gallina degollada" ["The Decapitated Chicken"]--aside from the fact that I found a link to the story in translation for those unable to read the work in its, ahem, colorful and vivid and bloodbath Spanish--is that it allows the important early 20th century short story stylist Horacio Quiroga to finally make his Spanish Lit Month debut in front of our huge international audience of confirmed genre fans.  As the bullet points on his vita all sadly attest, the Uruguayan Quiroga (1878-1937, photographed with one of his wives above), sometimes referred to as the Poe of South America and not just for his troubled biography, is practically a poster boy for the Argentinean and Uruguayan literatures of doom: as a toddler, he was present when his father accidentally killed himself with a gunshot blast to the face; while still a teen, Quiroga lost his stepfather to suicide; he had two brothers die young a few years later and--as if things couldn't get any worse--a couple of years after that, he accidentally killed his best friend in another firearm accident; fast forward a decade or so, and Quiroga's first wife checks out of their marriage by suicide; eventually, mortally ill and depressed, the writer finally takes his own life.  Somewhere in between all that death and misfortune, Quiroga found the time to write some of the most no-frills and aesthetically satisfying short stories in the South American canon.  "La gallina degollada," while not my favorite Quiroga by a long shot, still has plenty to recommend it in matters of style.  I'll limit myself to just a few quick observations here since the short story itself is just a click away. From the outset, the narrator is ruthlessly direct and even blunt in the telling of his tale: "Todo el día, sentados en el patio, en un banco estaban los cuatros hijos idiotas del matrimonio Mazzini-Ferraz.  Tenían la lengua entre los labios, los ojos estúpidos, y volvían la cabeza con toda la boca abierta" ["All day long the four idiot sons of the couple Mazzini-Ferraz sat on a bench in the patio.  Their tongues protruded from between their lips; their eyes were dull; their mouths hung open as they turned their heads"] (49 in the Spanish original, 57 in the translation by Margaret Sayers Peden).  Although the "idiot sons," variously described as "las cuatro bestias" ["the four animals"] (52, 60 in the translation), "los cuatro engendros" ["the four misbegotten sons"] (53, 62 in the translation), and even "los monstruos" ["the monsters"] (55, 64 in the translation), certainly don't get cut any slack in their non-PC portrayal as drooling, brain-damaged bumps on a log (on that note, I'd argue that "freaks" or even "abortions" would make for vastly superior translation choices for the Spanish word "engendros" than what Sayers Peden waters down as "misbegotten sons" in the middle quote above), Quiroga turns the table on his uncomfortable readers by asking who is more monstrous: the four meningitis victims "mirando el sol con alegría bestial, como si fuera comida" ["staring at the sun with bestial joy, as if it were something to eat"] (49, 57 in the translation) or the loving parents who fight over who's to blame for having passed on "la aterradora descendencia" ["the terrifying line of descent"] to their progeny (51, 60 in the translation)?  The parents, blessed at last by the birth of a beautiful daughter who makes it to the grand old age of four without showing any signs of having inherited the "idiot" gene of her brothers, then promptly ignore their four firstborn children to shower all their attention and affection on the sane one.  The ending, while telegraphed in advance early on ("Rojo...  Rojo..." ["Red....  Red...."] [55, 63 in the translation]), seems like just about the only one that Quiroga could have settled on, but why take my word for it when--SPOILER ALERT--you could just as easily check out the last two panels of the comic book version of "La gallina degollada" below?  Messed fucking up!

Quiroga's "La gallina degollada," with a short overview of the author's life and works, appears on pp. 45-57 of the anthology, El terror argentino: cuentos [Argentinean Terror: Short Stories], as presented by Elvio E. Gandolfo and Eduardo Hojman (Buenos Aires: Alfaguara, 2002).  The English translation I used above appears on pp. 55-66 of The Decapitated Chicken and Other Stories by Horacio Quiroga as translated by Margaret Sayers Peden (Austin & London: University of Texas Press, 1976).  Finally, the comic book version of Quiroga's "La gallina degollada," with drawings by Alberto Breccia, an adaptation by Carlos Trillo, and an introduction by Ricardo Piglia, can be found on pp. 64-76 of Piglia's La Argentina en pedazos [Argentina in Pieces] alongside similar adaptations of Arlt's Los siete locos, Echeverría's "El matadero," and Puig's Boquitas pintadas (Buenos Aires: Ediciones de la Urraca, 1993).  More on La Argentina en pedazos, "una historia de la violencia argentina a través de la ficción" ["a history of Argentinean violence through fiction"] (8), hopefully before too long.
The line-up from El terror argentino: cuentos:
Esteban Echeverría, "El Matadero"
Horacio Quiroga, "La gallina degollada"
Roberto Arlt, "La luna roja"
Manuel Mujica Lainez, "El hambre"
Julio Cortázar, "Verano"
Bernardo Kordon, "Hotel Comercio"
Antonio Di Benedetto, "En rojo de culpa"
Rodolfo Walsh, "Los ojos del traidor"
Abelardo Castillo, "Mis vecinos golpean"
Germán Rozenmacher, "Cabecita negra"
Amalia Jamilis, "Después del cine"
Lázaro Covadlo, "Llovían cuerpos desnudos"
Osvaldo Lamborghini, "El niño proletario"
Carlos Chernov, "Plaisir d'amour"
Guillermo Martínez, "Infierno grande"
Ana María Shua, "Como una buena madre"
Anna Kazumi Stahl, "Evidencia circunstancial"
Gustavo Nielsen, "En la ruta"

domingo, 20 de julio de 2014

Spanish Lit Month 2014: 7/13-7/19 Links

Liliana Heker

It's a measure of how swimmingly Spanish Language Literature Month is going that I've yet to read/comment on about half of last week's posts for the event.  OK, so that's also partly due to my erratic time management skills, but you get the picture: people are reading a lot of Spanish lit with us these days.  Hope you're enjoying the mutiny on the bounty!

Bellezza, Dolce Bellezza
The Nautical Chart by Arturo Pérez-Reverte

Emma, Book Around the Corner
Guilty of Dancing the ChaChaCha by Guillermo Cabrera Infante

Grant, 1streading's Blog
Talking to Ourselves by Andrés Neuman
Where There's Love, There's Hate by Adolfo Bioy Casares and Silvina Ocampo

Himadri, The Argumentative Old Git
Tormento by Benito Pérez Galdós

JacquiWine, JacquiWine's Journal
Never Any End to Paris by Enrique Vila-Matas

Miguel, St. Orberose
El amigo de la Muerte by Pedro Antonio de Alarcón

Richard, Caravana de recuerdos
"La música de los domingos" by Liliana Heker
El burlador de Sevilla by/attributed to Tirso de Molina

Scott, seraillon
Bomarzo by Manuel Mujica Láinez

Stu, Winstonsdad's Blog
The Ingenious Gentleman and Poet Federico García Lorca Ascends to Hell by Carlos Rojas

Tom, Wuthering Expectations
The House of Ulloa [1] by Emilia Pardo Bazán
The House of Ulloa [2] by Emilia Pardo Bazán

Tony, Tony's Reading List
Paris by Marcos Giralt Torrente

viernes, 18 de julio de 2014

El burlador de Sevilla

El burlador de Sevilla (Cátedra, 2010)
attributed to Tirso de Molina
Spain, c. 1630

With apologies to Amanda and Tom, who read and reread all three acts of El burlador de Sevilla [The Trickster of Seville] w/me for June's Caravana de recuerdos group read while I was out picking up the beer and munchies on the "Latino time" that's now dragged into late July, I've been putting off writing about this Siglo de Oro classic because I don't really have all that much to say about the play.  Didn't love it.  Didn't hate it.  Don't quite understand its accumulation of four centuries of hype.  On second thought, that last part isn't entirely true because one of the most understandably appealing things about the play is that it boasts the memorably unappealing title character in the form of the original Don Juan.  "Unappealing," as I've just used it, is of course a value judgement about the character's womanizing ways.  What's appealing about him as a character, though, is the way he's so dedicated to his craft!  In the first scene alone, for example, he has to flee Naples after having impersonated a duke and falsely wedded the Duchess Isabela just to enjoy the duchess' favors.  Early in the second act, in the midst of leaving a trail of seduced and deceived women in his wake upon his return to Spain, he brags about how he came about his nickname: "Sevilla a voces me llama/el Burlador, y el mayor/gusto que en mí puede haber/es burlar una mujer/y dejarla sin honor" ["Seville sometimes refers to me as the Trickster, and for me there is no greater pleasure than to deceive a woman and to leave her without honor"] (verses 1395-1399).  In the third act, the incorrigible Don Juan gleefully chides yet another "false bride" of his in an aside: "¡Qué mal conoces/al burlador de Sevilla!" ["How poorly you understand the Trickster of Seville!"] (2229-2230).  In short, the character is a singularly compelling villain in that he never seems repentant for his behavior no matter what harm it causes--and this in a play in which a friend of his can casually joke about a woman who survived a bout of "el mal francés/por un río de sudores" ["syphillis sweated out in a river of fever"] (1308-1309) and in which another woman spurned by Don Juan asks for him to be killed for having been the "homicida de mi honor" ["murderer of my honor"] (1657).  The undeniable negative charisma of Don Juan and the earthy realism of that VD reference aside, another couple of reasons I might/probably will revisit the play in the future are that it's mischievously "poetic"--loved the description of "la espumosa orilla/del mar de Italia" ["the foamy shores of the Italian sea"] as the site of Don Juan's "cárcel" ["prison"], in reference to the cad's initial expulsion from Castile to Naples (117-121); ditto the description of Isabela as a "fea" ["ugly woman"], even though she must be an "ángel" ["angel"], when compared to the daughter of the Commander of Calatrava, whose beauty moves the King of Castile to astronomically rhapsodize her as "el Sol de las estrellas de Sevilla" ["the Sun of all the stars of Seville"] (1190-1199)--and goofily entertaining w/r/t the way the poor skirt-chasing Trickster eventually receives his supernatural comeuppance at the hands of a guest of stone from beyond the grave: I mean, I understand that revenge is a dish best served cold and all, but nobody ever told me that it could be jazzed up by scorpions, fingernails, and snakes!

In his introduction to the Cátedra edition of El burlador de Sevilla, Alfredo Rodríguez López-Vázquez does a pretty convincing job of casting doubt on Tirso de Molina as the author of the work.  The arguments are too complicated to go into here, but I'll try to follow up on this in a later post if anyone's interested.  Until then, thanks again to Amanda and Tom for reading this along with me.

miércoles, 16 de julio de 2014

La música de los domingos

"La música de los domingos"
by Liliana Heker
Argentina, 1997

Now that it's safe to avoid jinxing my adopted home team from achieving their best World Cup finish in the last 25 years (¡Vamos Argentina!  ¡Vamos Carajo!), I thought I'd share a futból/soccer/football piece or two during the second half of Spanish Lit Month to help chase away the World Cup hangovers that all but the Deutschland fans and/or the Messi haters must be feeling at this point in time.  First up: Liliana Heker's "La música de los domingos" ["The Sunday Music"], a very satisfying short story barely seven pages in length which manages to do a great job of simultaneously paying tribute to and poking fun at the rabidity which "the beautiful game" inspires in its fans all while touching on the ways fútbol fandom can unite and divide families.  As fate would have it, the #10 of this story is the cranky unnamed grandfather of the narrator who's only referred to as "el viejo" ["the old man"] throughout: a diehard fan of Boca who insists on gathering his entire family around him every Sunday to watch various matches from the early afternoon until after midnight and whose favorite pastime, aside from the sport itself, is looking out into the street and lamenting, "Lástima la música" ["What a shame about the music"].  One day, Uncle Antonito, a River Plate supporter who becomes fed up after enduring one too many mocking serenades from his Boca Juniors fanatic of a relative, asks the viejo what music could he possibly be complaining about since the only music to be heard in the house is his; the old man, interrupting, authoritatively and dismissively but somewhat enigmatically replies: "No hablo de la música que se escucha, Antonito; hablo de la que falta" ["I'm not talking about the music that can be heard, Antonito; I'm talking about the music that's missing"] (114).  The narrator, self-described as "una mujer casadera" ["a woman of a marriageable age"] who would prefer not to waste her weekends "vociferando los goles como una desgraciada" ["screaming at goals like a miserable wretch"] just to keep her crochety old grandfather company (114-115), says that she would have been more than willing to leave things at that.  However, her twin cousins, not so easily defeated, pester the grandfather until he finally explains to them what he means by "the music that's missing."  The answer: "la música de los domingos" or "the Sunday music" (115).  In the remainder of the story, Heker displays a light touch and a warm, sentimental streak in the manner in which her narrator seems to gradually become aware of how her grandfather's passion for futból is tinged with nostalgia for the Buenos Aires of days gone by.  "Parece que poco a poco fueron entendiendo qué quería decir el viejo con 'música de los domingos'" ["It seems that, little by little, the twins were beginning to understand what the old man meant by 'Sunday music'"], she writes.  "Algo que en otros tiempos había estado en todas partes, dijo, y que se podía escuchar desde que uno se levantaba.  Como una comunión o una sinfonía, parece que dijo" ["Something that in former times was everywhere, he said, and that could be heard from the moment one woke up.  It was like a communion or a symphony, it seems he said"] (115).  When the twins decide to give their grandfather the gift of  what he refers to as "Sunday music" for his birthday (it falls, appropriately enough on a Sunday), he gets dragged to their quasi-tenement house near Paternal, in a foul mood promptly insults the barrio, and then gets rejuvenated when treated to an unexpected, staged show of "Sunday music" in which the whole neighborhood seems to be in on the joke: radios blare different football matches from behind apartment windows, two or three boys in a doorway sing the grandfather's favorite football chants, little kids behind a wall yell as they star in their own matches with each other: "decían pasámela a mí, decían dale, morfón" ["they were saying pass it to me; they were saying come on, ballhog"] (117).  Although it'd make little sense for me to belabor this summary any further given the fact that I don't think "La música de los domingos" is even available in English, suffice it to say that Heker's attention to detail--and in particular to the spoken language of her characters--is such that the description of the voices on the radio ("Cabezazo de Gorosito...recibe Moreno con el pecho, la duerme con la zurda, gira y..." ["What a header from Gorosito...Moreno stops the ball with his chest, controls it with his left foot and..."]) and the reactions of the "fans" on the street ("¡Goool!, gritaron los muchachos del portón" ["'Goalll!,' shouted the kids in the doorway"]) is handled in such a way that it makes it easy to picture the grandfather's astonishment as he's confronted with the rousing, Argentinean fan chants of "Oléee, olé-olé-olá" and "esta barra quilombera no te deja de alentar" coming from the hallways, the patios and the terraces which have seemingly transformed themselves, fútbol fairy tale like, into the "tribunas" or "stands" of his memory or imagination (118-119).  A lovely story winningly told.

"La música de los domingos" appears on pp. 111-119 of the Roberto Fontanarrosa-edited Cuentos de Fútbol Argentino [Argentinean Football Stories] (Buenos Aires: Alfaguara, 1997).
Other short stories in the collection:
Adolfo Bioy Casares/Jorge Luis Borges, "Esse est percipi"
Marcelo Cohen, "Fantasía española"
Humberto Costantini, "Insai izquierdo"
Alejandro Dolina, "Apuntes del fútbol en Flores"
José Pablo Feinmann, "Dieguito"
Inés Fernández Moreno, "Milagro en Parque Chas"
Roberto Fontanarrosa, "Escenas de la vida deportiva"
Rodrigo Fresán, "Final"
Elvio E. Gandolfo, "El visitante"
Héctor Libertella, "La cifra redonda"
Diego Lucero, "Hoy comienza el campeonato y habrá fiesta para rato"
Marcos Mayer, "Ver o jugar"
Pacho O'Donnell, "Falucho"
Guillermo Saccomanno, "Tránsito"
Juan Sasturain, "Campitos"
Osvaldo Soriano, "Gallardo Pérez, referí"
Luisa Valenzuela, "El mundo es de los inocentes"
Diego Alejandro Majluff has posted an audio version of Heker's story at his blog Escribiendo con lápiz, which I strongly recommend for those able to follow along in Spanish.

domingo, 13 de julio de 2014

Spanish Lit Month 2014: 7/6-7/12 Links

Amanda, Simpler Pastimes
El burlador de Sevilla by Tirso de Molina

Bellezza, Dolce Bellezza
The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Barcelona Shadows by Marc Pastor

Caroline, Beauty Is a Sleeping Cat

JacquiWine, JacquiWine's Journal
Nada by Carmen Laforet

Miguel, St. Orberose
Las islas extraordinarias by Gonzalo Torrente Ballester

Obooki, Obooki's Obloquy
Fiesta in November by Eduardo Mallea

Richard, Caravana de recuerdos
La asesina ilustrada by Enrique Vila-Matas

Scott, seraillon
Severina by Rodrigo Rey Rosa

Tom, Wuthering Expectations
The Trickster of Seville by Tirso de Molina
Miguel Hernández by Miguel Hernández

Tony, Tony's Reading List
Paradises by Iosi Havilio

Tony Messenger, Messengers Booker (and more)
Dirty Havana Trilogy by Pedro Juan Gutierrez

Violet, Still Life with Books
Sidewalks by Valeria Luiselli

sábado, 12 de julio de 2014

La asesina ilustrada

La asesina ilustrada (Tusquets Editor, 1977)
by Enrique Vila-Matas
Spain, 1977

I have good news and bad news for you Spanish Lit Month yobbos tonight.  The good news is that the previous Vila-Matas that I read, 1985's devilishly entertaining Historia abreviada de la literatura portátil, is finally going to be translated into English next year just in time for its 30th anniversary.  The bad news is that the most recent Vila-Matas that I read, 1977's disappointing La asesina ilustrada, well, let's just say that it really isn't all that entertaining at all.  Now a book about a manuscript that kills is a killer idea to be sure--especially one blessed with such an inspired title as La asesina ilustrada, which can be rendered as either The Illustrated Assassin or The Well Read Killer or even The Killer Made Famous,* three descriptions which fit the villainous title text to a t--but unfortunately this sophomore effort from the young Vila-Matas is rather plodding in its attempts to cobble together a death-by-writing spin on the locked room mystery and entirely lacking in all the biting wit and genre-bending storytelling savoir-faire to be found in later works by the author.  As proof of the 88-page novella's soporific qualities, I have absolutely zero quotes from La asesina ilustrada to share for which I apologize in the timeless words of an actual memorable villain from non-Spanish Lit Month days gone by: "Youths!  I invoke your sympathy.  Maidens!  I claim your tears."

*[Edit: Thanks to JacquiWine and Stu for informing me that La asesina ilustrada has been rendered into English as The Lettered Assassin in the translation of EV-M's Never Any End to Paris: a much better choice than any of the "creative" ones I submitted above!]

Enrique Vila-Matas

lunes, 7 de julio de 2014

La ciudad de las ratas

La ciudad de las ratas [La Cité des rats] (El cuenco de plata, 2009)
by Copi [translated from the French by Guadalupe Marando, Eduardo Muslip & María Silva]
France, 1979

As far as rodent/human epistolary novels set in the City of Light go, La ciudad de las ratas [original title: La Cité des rats; English approximation: City of Rats] is probably in a league of its own.  Probably?  Literally!  Prologuist and co-translator Eduardo Muslip conveniently enough for me describes the work as "una mezcla de relato de aventuras, fábula rabelaisiana y novela experimental" ["a mix of adventure tale, Rabelaisian fable and experimental novel"] (5), to which I'd only add that its gross out humor and sheer wrongness are comparable in sicko comedic verve and scale to the night I saw Pink Flamingos at a midnight screening in the early '80s only to find entire rows of people walking out on the flick at staggered intervals.  Quite an impression!  Quite a parallel!  Narrated by the likeable sewer rat Gouri in conjunction with his human friend and the purported translator of the tale Copi, La ciudad de las ratas spins a wild, orgiastic tale--again, literally!--in which the struggle for the rat nation to survive amid a cosmic struggle involving the Dios de los Hombres [God of Mankind] and the Diablo de las Ratas [Devil of the Rats] leads to an all too human situation in which the Île de la Cité with Notre-Dame de Paris intact splits off from its European moorings and drifts to the New World with the U.S. and Russian navies in hot pursuit.  A foundational tale of a sort.  Although things end on a somewhat apocalyptic note beyond the mere smashing of the stained glass windows at the Sainte-Chapelle and the destruction by fire of the Académie française and the Louvre as you might imagine if you're at all familiar with Copi's earlier Enrique Vila-Matas translated "El uruguayo"/"L'Uruguayen," I won't say anything more about the vachement violent ending since I don't want Fnac to lose any sales over a careless abuse of the spoiler alert function on my keyboard.  That being said, here are three things I thought were really cool about the novel even though I probably could have done without occasional provocations like the "comedic" necrophilia scene near the end: 1) In a novel in which absurdism and realism reign side by side in monarchical harmony (or something) and in a novel in which some of the star sidekicks of Gouri and his rat friend Rakä so to speak include characters known as la Reina de las Ratas [the Queen of Rats] and el Emir de los Loros [the Emir of the Parrots], I for some reason couldn't stop laughing at two strategically placed words from the otherwise nondescript line "Todos los demás, hámsters incluidos, me gritaban '¡coraje, coraje!" encaramados a las ramas del sauce" ["Everybody else, hamsters included, were shouting 'Be brave!  Be brave!' to me while perched atop the branches of the willow tree"] having to do with the occasion when Gouri suddenly finds himself under attack from a human child (39).  "Hamsters included."  A nice touch!  2) The intrusive translator trick.  "Nunca supe cuál es la parte real y cuál la imaginaria en este relato, tal vez por falta de curiosidad" ["I never learned what was the real and what was the imaginary part of this story--perhaps out of a lack of curiosity"], the translator admits at one point.  Later, in the translator's afterword, he amusingly adds that "Creí útil cortar algunas de mis notas, cuya erudición sobrepasa y anula la imaginación, por respeto al estilo fluido y fresco del autor, que quise conservar" ["I thought it a good idea to cut out some of my footnotes, whose erudition surpasses and annuls the imagination, out of respect for the fresh and fluid style of the author which I wanted to preserve"] (139).  3) Somewhat incredibly given a story in which a bat serves as a form of aircraft for the Queen of Rats and her court, some verses from Jorge Manrique's 1476 "Coplas que fizo por la muerte de su padre" ["Verses Written on the Death of His Father"] manage to get worked into a scene in which the translator Copi tells how, during a particularly lonely period in his life in Paris in the late '70s, he first met the rat Gouri on the sidewalk of the rue Dauphine, took him home, and "ebrio a morir, le recitaba a Gouri el más bello poema que conozco, con mi execrable acento español" ["dead drunk, with my horrible Spanish accent, recited to him the most beautiful poem that I know"] (114).  Why would Manrique's Coplas show up in a work as envelope-pushing in its sensibilities as La ciudad de las ratas? I sure would love to ask its author!  However, my guess, that the poem had some strong personal significance for the flesh and blood Copi can't entirely be confirmed by the fictional Copi who in the translator's afterword merely notes that the poem excerpt comes from the first and the beginning of the second coplas of the Castilian soldier Jorge Manrique (1440-1479), is blessed with a rhyme that's "cerca de la perfección" ["close to perfection"], and relates "los últimos momentos del padre del soldado; el poeta cita este acontecimiento como ejemplo para conducir al lector a reflexionar sobre la brevedad de nuestras vidas, comparándolas con los 'ríos que van a dar a la mar", que es 'el morir'" ["the last moments of the soldier's father; the poet cites this event as an example for the reader to reflect on the brevity of our lives, comparing them with the 'rivers that flow out to the sea,' which is 'our dying'"] (139).

Copi, a/k/a Raúl Damonte Botana
(Buenos Aires, 1939-Paris, 1987)

I read La ciudad de las ratas/La Cité des rats for the Paris in July 2014 fête hosted by Bellezza of Dolce Bellezza and her co-hosts Adria of Adria in Paris, Karen of A Wondering Life and Tamara of Thyme for Tea and for the year-long Books on France 2014 Reading Challenge hosted by Emma of Words and Peace.
As luck would have it, almost all of the Manrique lines cited by Copi in this novel appear in this post here with an accompanying English translation from Edith Grossman.

domingo, 6 de julio de 2014

Spanish Lit Month 2014: 7/1-7/5 Links

 Jorge Luis Borges & Adolfo Bioy Casares

As promised, here's the first week's collection of links for Spanish Lit Month 2014 being hosted by Stu of Winstonsdad's Blog and me.  Thanks to all of you who have contributed a post or two so far or who are planning to do so later in the month.  Feel free to let me know if I missed any submissions, and in the meantime rest assured that any SLM posts published between 7/6 and 7/12 will be rounded up here next Sunday.  Haven't committed to participating yet but are thinking about it?  Please join us!  You can satisfy our exacting admission requirements by contributing as little as one measly post dedicated to any work of Spanish-language literature (novel, poem, short story, etc.)* that strikes your fancy.  Happy reading!  *Works of Catalan-language literature may be substituted by any/all interested in doing so.  Also, some of the links below originally appeared in June because a couple of bloggers were apparently just too excited to wait until July to get started!

Bellezza, Dolce Bellezza
The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vásquez

Caroline, Beauty Is a Sleeping Cat

Grant, 1streading's Blog
Outlaws by Javier Cercas

JacquiWine, JacquiWine's Journal
The Infatuations by Javier Marías

Karen, BookerTalk
The Infinite Plan by Isabel Allende

Miguel, St. Orberose
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

Richard, Caravana de recuerdos
¡Bienvenidos a Spanish Lit Month 2014!
Continuación de ideas diversas by César Aira
Crónicas de Bustos Domecq by Jorge Luis Borges and Adolfo Bioy Casares

Rise, in lieu of a field guide
Ang Kuwento ng Haring Tulala by Gonzalo Torrente Ballester
The Tenant and The Motive by Javier Cercas
Shadow Without a Name by Ignacio Padilla

Scott, seraillon
Things Look Different in the Light by Medardo Fraile

Stu, Winstonsdad's Blog
Liveforever by Andrés Caicedo
The Family of Pascual Duarte by Camilo José Cela

Tony Messenger, Messengers Booker (and more)
Firefly by Severo Sarduy

sábado, 5 de julio de 2014

Crónicas de Bustos Domecq

Crónicas de Bustos Domecq (Losada, 1998)
by Jorge Luis Borges and Adolfo Bioy Casares
Argentina, 1967

In his commentary on Crónicas de Bustos Domecq [Chronicles of Bustos Domecq] for Los libros esenciales de la literatura en español: narrativa de 1950 a nuestros días, the critic Ignacio Echevarría claims that "quién acerca este libro a su oído puede todavía escuchar los ecos de las carcajadas con que fue escrito a cuatro manos" ["whoever holds this book up close to his ears will still be able to hear the echoes of the peals of laughter with which it was written by the four hands who penned it"] (Barcelona: Lunwerg Editores, 2011, 57).  In his commentary on the work for the great blog Obooki's Obloquy, the critic and title character and Spanish Lit Month 2014 participant Obooki claims that "one imagines [Borges and Bioy Casares] laughing a lot writing it."  Who the hell am I to argue with these second four hands?  In other words, Crónicas de Bustos Domecq is a delightful and laugh out loud funny book not to mention a particularly lively specimen of the fake essay genre.  "Homenaje a César Paladión" ["Homage to César Paladión"], sort of a four-page takeoff on Borges' classic short story "Pierre Menard, autor del Quijote" ["Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote"], is an excellent introduction to the fun and games here: a defense of a serial plagiarist, one César Paladión, whose life's work revolves around publishing exact repros of texts as diverse as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles, Goethe's Egmont, and Virgil's Georgics--all under his own name.  Bustos Domecq, a would be avant-garde art critic given to flights of grandiloquence and prone to peppering his Spanish with copious amounts of show-off French and Latin, takes great pains to extol Paladión, celebrating the "writer"'s excesses because "ya había ido más lejos" ["he had already  gone further"] than his contemporaries in matters of style; where Ezra Pound had merely led off one of his Cantos by including a "copioso fragmento" ["copious fragment"] of Homer's Odyssey, for example, Paladión clearly surpassed him because "anexó, por decirlo así, un opus completo, Los parques abandonados, de Herrera y Reissig" ["he annexed, so to speak, a complete opus, Herrera y Reissig's Los parques abandonados"] (25).  Paladión, we are told, "le otorgó su nombre y lo pasó a la imprenta, sin quitar ni agregar una sola coma, norma a la que siempre fiel" ["claimed authorship of the work and passed it on to the printer without adding or removing a single comma, a standard to which he was always faithful"]--a great achievement when compared to "el libro homónimo de Herrera" ["Herrera's homonymous book"] because the original Los parques abandonados "no repetía un libro anterior" ["didn't repeat an earlier book"] (Ibid.).  Late in in life, Paladión, with no knowledge of "las lenguas muertas" ["dead languages"] according to his chronicler (26), ambitiously set his sights on the classics of antiquity.  His The Gospel According to Luke, "obra de corte bíblico" ["a work biblical in nature"] as it's devilishly described (24), is unfortunately interrupted by the wordsmith's death; however, not to fear because Paladión still had time to grace us with The Georgics "según la versión española de Ochoa" ["in Ochoa's Spanish translation"] and, a year later, "ya consciente de su magnitud espiritual, dio a la imprenta el De divinatione en latín" ["now conscious of his spiritual magnitude, he submitted the De divinatione in Latin to the printer"].  Bustos Domecq, a true believer as an aesthete, can barely restrain himself, and neither could I when I read the irrepressible outburst that follows: "¡Y qué latín!  "El de Cicerón" ["And what Latin!  Ciceronian Latin!"] (26).  In her prologue to this winning Borges and Bioy collaboration, Julià Guillamon notes that "la vulgaridad barroca" ["baroque vulgarity"] of Bustos Domecq and the fact that the character's writing offers something far removed from that which you'd expect from a "crítico coherente" ["coherent critic"] (13-14), make him "encarna los valores a los que se opusieron toda su vida.  Es católico, nacionalista, pronazi, peronista, mercantil e interesado" ["incarnate all the values which (Borges and Bioy Casares) opposed throughout their lives.  He's Catholic, a nationalist, pro-Nazi, a Perón supporter, money-grubbing, and self-promoting"] (Ibid.).  In other words, a great character!  Some of these flaws produce some truly inspired comedy.  In "El ojo selectivo" ["The Selective Eye"], an essay on a sculptor who's a practitioner of what BD refers to as "la escultura cóncava" ["concave sculpture"] (96) or what in reality is the open spaces or plain old air to be found in between the charlatan's generic busts and casts, Bustos Domecq interrupts his reminiscence about a fancy cultural night dedicated to agape and the muses to lash out at a waiter whom he describes as "ese Tántalo de gallego con frac" ["that Spanish Tantalus in tails"] (95).  The reason for this obscure mythological insult?  The waiter had forgotten to bring dessert to the critic's side of the table.  Quelle horreur!  Later in the same piece, Bustos Domecq confesses to having been the "boletero" or ticket seller at one of the concave sculptor's expositions on an evening that saw an incensed public take to physically abusing the artist.  Bustos Domecq escapes to a nearby hotel, where he says he gathered information for a "estudio detectivesco" ["detective study"] of his by the name of La víctima de Tadeo Limardo ["Tadeo Limardo's Victim"] (97).  What does this really have to do with the sculptor?  Using the royal "we," Bustos Domecq is all too happy to explain via a footnote at the bottom of the same page: "Dato importante: Aprovechamos la ocasión para remitir a los compradores a la adquisición inmediata de Seis problemas para don Isidro Parodi, de H. Bustos Domecq.  (Nota de H.B.D)" ["Important fact: We take advantage of the occasion to suggest customers make an immediate purchase of Six Problems for Don Isidro Parodi by H. Bustos Domecq.  (Note by H.B.D.)"].  For non-Borges and -Bioy Casares fans, suffice it to say that the footnote joke gets better once you understand that the Isidro Parodi book was a detective parody pseudonymously attributed to H. Bustos Domecq way back in 1942.  For confirmed Borges and Bioy Casares fans, suffice it to say that the footnote joke gets a lot of play here including one footnote attributed to the proofreader (70, pedantic genius!) and, in a fitting encore, another H.B.D. clarification in which readers are encouraged to consult a study by the name of Una tarde con Ramón Bonavena ["An Evening with Ramón Bonavena"].  Where can one get a hold of this study?  Don't be silly.  Naturally, it's to be found "inserto en el indispensable vademecum Crónicas de Bustos Domecq (Buenos Aires, 1966)" ["inserted in the indispensable vade mecum Chronicles of Bustos Domecq (Buenos Aires, 1966)"] (110) which is on sale now!

Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) & Adolfo Bioy Casares (1914-1999)

jueves, 3 de julio de 2014

Continuación de ideas diversas

Continuación de ideas diversas (Ediciones Universidad Diego Portales, 2014)
by César Aira
Argentina, 2014

Two questions.  1) What might an ars poetica from César Aira look like?  2) How does Aira's nonfiction differ from his fiction?  Aira, last seen in these parts in connection with his fantastic 1990 novella Los Fantasmas, inadvertently answers both of these questions during the course of this amusing, playful, occasionally reader-baiting Continuación de ideas diversas [Continuation of Various Ideas]--an 86-page long free association of ideas on reading, writing, art and etc. in which Borges, Kafka and Raymond Roussel get lots of love and in which both the conventional novel and Julio Cortázar get trashed on multiple occasions.  A few examples.  "El modo más común de describir o recomendar novelas consiste en decir 'es sobre...', y a continuación poner el tema o ambiente o personajes: 'una familia disfuncional', 'los refugiados de la guerra en Sudán', 'dos jóvenes que buscan su vocación'..." ["The most common way of describing or recommending novels consists in saying 'it's about...,' and in what follows referring to the theme or the setting or the characters: 'a dysfunctional family,' 'refugees from the war in Sudan,' 'two youths in search of their vocation'..."], Aira writes.  "Las críticas o reseñas hechas por profesionales no son muy distintas" ["The criticism or reviews done by professionals aren't very different"], he adds.  "Si la recomendación es muy enfática, el relato de la temática se extiende y detalla, y eso es todo" ["If it's a very strong recommendation, the discussion of the subject matter gets more drawn out and detailed, that's all"].  The problem with this approach? "Pero la literatura es forma.  Esas descripciones o recomendaciones no dicen nada sobre el mérito o demérito literario de la novela" ["But literature is form.  Those descriptions or recommendations don't say anything about the literary merit or lack of merit of the novel"].  The next part is the best in terms of Aira's insight as a critic of critics--let's just hope I don't muck up the translation too much for you to appreciate the subtle irony: "El hecho de que sea casi imposible hablar de una novela sin decir en algún momento 'es sobre...' debería significar algo sobre el género novela o la 'forma novela'.  Ese algo puede ser o bien que la forma de la novela sea su materia, o bien que indique el triunfo de la materia sobre la forma, vale decir una derrota de la literatura en su formato más exitoso" ["The fact that it's almost impossible to talk about a novel without at one point saying 'it's about...' ought to signify something about the novel genre or about the 'novel form.'  That something might be either that the form of the novel is its subject matter or that it indicates the triumph of subject matter over form--which is to say a defeat of literature in its most successful format"] (23).  Elsewhere, Aira takes a more lightheartedly self-critical look at matters of reading tastes and the craft of writing when he admits that when "leyendo novelas policiales, buenas, apasionantes... me pregunto por qué yo no escribo así.  ¿Qué razón hay para escribir estos vanguardismos que escribo yo?" ["reading detective novels, good ones, thrilling ones... I ask myself why I don't write like that.  What reason is there to write these little avant-gardisms that I write?"].  Although he answers this question with what for me was a disarmingly simple proposition--the notion that reading and writing are "dos actividades radicalmente distintas" ["two radically different activities"] with corresponding "distintos objetivos" ["different objectives"] to match (54)--a much more colorful explanation comes in the form of an earlier passage in which he says that the Superman comics of the '50s and '60s were "la principal influencia" ["the main influence"] in his writing life.  "Ahí estaba todo lo que yo después quise hacer escribiendo, y en cierta medida, hasta donde pude, hice" ["There was to be found everything which I later wanted to do in writing, and in a way, to the extent that was possible for me, I did"].  What was it about these comics that was so appealing?  For one thing, "los argumentos tenían muy poca psicología, en su lugar tenían siempre un sutil juego intelectual" ["the plots had very little psychology; in lieu of that, they always had a subtle intellectual game instead"].  Along with that, the artwork.  "Y los colores, sobre todos los colores, claros, hermosos como un amanecer o como el pensamiento cuando se enfrenta a la aventura de la inteligencia" ["And the colors, above all the colors, bright, beautiful like a dawn or like the mind when confronted with the adventure of intelligence"].  According to Aira, Borges and "las revelaciones posteriores (Lautréamont, Marianne Moore, por nombrar dos)" ["later revelations (Lautréamont, Marianne Moore, to name two)"] were the beneficiaries of how his comic book fandom prepared him for "el goce y el ejercicio pleno de la literatura" ["the enjoyment and the full exercise of literature"] as a result of the "el hechizo persistente de los dibujos, los colores, la visibilidad intensiva de las reglas de juego de la ficción de Superman" ["the enduring spell cast by the drawings, the colors, the intense visibility of the rules of the game of Superman's fiction"] (46-47).  Having spent more time on this post than I'd intended without even once touching upon how the slippery Aira, self-described as "un lector muy precozmente intelectual, muy highbrow y no poco snob, muy literario" ["a precociously intellectual reader, very highbrow and more than a little snobbish, very literary"] who at the age of 14 already "quería ser un gran escritor, un genio, como Kafka o Proust" ["wanted to be a great writer, a genius, like Kafka or Proust"] but was troubled by how those writers "estaban cargados con la inmensa responsibilidad de mantener la calidad, de construir su Obra-Vida, de no apearse del monumental camello de lo Sublime" ["were charged with the immense responsibility of maintaining a high quality, of constructing their Life's Work, and of not falling off the monumental camel of the sublime"] (37-38) in contrast to the writers of the cowboy novels that his dad was a fan of who could write whatever they wanted and who had nothing to fear from the critics, differs in his nonfiction voice from his fictional voice, let me brief at last: not much.  Here, for example, is just one fragment out of many sporting the same sort of trace of a conceptual slap in the face that you can also find in his novellas (85):

Uno de los varios motivos por los que me opongo a la promoción de la lectura es el más evidente de todos, y por ello el menos visible: los libros están llenos de vulgaridad, prejuicios, estereotipos, falsedades.  Su frecuentación no puede sino embotar el pensamiento y la sensibilidad, distorsionar las ideas, falsificar la experiencia.
Se dirá que los buenos libros no son así, y que producen los efectos contrarios a éstos.  De acuerdo, pero los únicos que leen buenos libros son los que leen desde siempre y no necesitan campañas de promoción de la lectura.  Los que no han leído, y se deciden a hacerlo por una de estas campañas, necesariamente van a leer libros malos.

[One of the various reasons I'm opposed to the promotion of reading is the most evident of all and, because of that, the least visible: books are full of banality, prejudices, stereotypes, falsehoods.  Frequenting them can only dull one's sensibility and thinking, distort ideas, falsify experience.
It will be said that good books aren't like that and that they produce effects contrary to these.  Agreed, but the only people who read good books are the ones who have been reading them for forever and they don't need any publicity campaigns for reading.  Those who don't read, but who decide to do it because of one of these publicity campaigns, are necessarily going to read bad books.]

César Aira

I hope to share another Aira post or two with you later in the month.  In the meantime, here's one more snippet from Continuación de ideas diversas (page 55) since who knows when or if it will ever make its way into English:

Lo difícil es escribir, no escribir bien.  En los talleres literarios se puede aprender a escribir bien, pero no a escribir.  Para escribir bien hay recetas, consejos útiles, un aprendizaje.  Escribir, en cambio, es una decisión de vida, que se realiza con todos los actos de la vida.

[The difficult thing is writing, not writing well.  In writing workshops, one can learn to write well but not to write.  To write well, there are instruction manuals, useful advice, an apprenticeship.  Writing, on the other hand, is a life decision which is realized with all the actions in one's life.]

martes, 1 de julio de 2014

¡Bienvenidos a Spanish Lit Month 2014!

Bienvenidos a/Welcome to Spanish Lit Month 2014, a month-long celebration of Spanish language literature read in the original español or in translation in the language of your choice.  Thanks to Stu of Winstonsdad's Blog for coming up with the idea for the event in the first place and for asking me to co-host it with him back in 2012 and now again in 2014.  Thanks as well to all of you who have agreed to read and review a work for the festivities this year.  By the way, the link above should include the names of almost everybody who's said they'll be participating; however, there's always room for more if anybody else would like to join us during the course of the month.  Feel free to leave a comment here if I've missed you or if you'd like to make sure I know about any of your Spanish Lit Month posts.  For now, I'm planning on running weekly links round-ups on Sundays throughout July.  As far as what I'll be reading for the event, your guess is as good as mine!  However, the closest things to a certainty at the moment are a) Guillermo Cabrera Infante's Tres tristes tigres [Three Trapped Tigers], one of our two group read choices for the end of the month alongside Gabriel García Márquez's Noticia de un secuestro [News of a Kidnapping], and b) a new César Aira book that was brought back from Chile for me just yesterday thanks to a very kind coworker.  Anyway, hope to see you around during the event.  ¡Saludos!/Cheers!