domingo, 31 de julio de 2016

Spanish Lit Month 2016: 7/24-7/30 Links

Before I forget, just wanted to remind y'all that Spanish Lit Month(s) 2016 will continue throughout August for any/all inclined to keep reading Spanish language literature in fine company for another month.  For those of you who have already had enough, good riddance--I mean, thanks for participating and keep checking back every Sunday or so for the latest links round-ups.  Cheers!

Amateur Reader (Tom), Wuthering Expectations
(on La Regenta by Leopoldo Alas)

Emma, Book Around the Corner
Tango for a Torturer by Daniel Chavarría

Grant, 1streading's Blog
The Buenos Aires Affair by Manuel Puig

JacquiWine, JacquiWine's Journal
Affections by Rodrigo Hasbún

Joe, roughghosts
Poets, artists and other lost souls: Last Evenings on Earth by Roberto Bolaño

John, The Modern Novel
Campo abierto [Open Field] by Max Aub
Los afectos (Affections) by Rodrigo Hasbún

lizzysiddal, Lizzy's Literary Life
#spanishlitmonth - Reading Notes

Obooki, Obooki's Obloquy
Time of Silence by Martín Luis-Santos

Rise, in lieu of a field guide
(on "Shakespeare's Memory" by Jorge Luis Borges)
(on The Pact of Biyak-na-Bato and Ninay by Pedro Paterno)

Scott G.F. Bailey, six words for a hat
Divine Madness: la idiota en casa y iglesia, by Leopoldo Alas
(on La Regenta by Leopoldo Alas)

Simon Lavery, Tredynas Days
 A cold and calculating egotism: La Regenta, by Leopoldo Alas
Seduce her for me: Ana's fate sealed in La Regenta

Tony, Tony's Reading List

Tony Messenger, Messengers Booker (and more)
The Youngest Doll by Rosario Ferré
Multiple Choice by Alejandro Zambra

jueves, 28 de julio de 2016

La Grève des bàttu

La Grève des bàttu (Le Serpent à Plumes, 2013)
by Aminata Sow Fall
Senegal, 1979

Recipient of a coveted Michelin star on Amateur Reader's 2008 Senegalese reading list--food for thought that's still dang handy after all these years--Aminata Sow Fall's 1979 La Grève des bàttu ou Les Déchets humains [The Beggars' Strike, or, The Dregs of Society] has singlehandedly doubled my exposure to Senegalese novels dedicated to workers' strikes.  In this case, the strike at the center of the action takes place when the diligent but increasingly guilt-ridden Kéba Dabo is tasked by his amoral boss Mour Ndiaye with ridding their unnamed Ville [City] of the beggars that are plaguing its streets.  The goal?  To permit the movers and shakers of post-independence Senegal to profit off the country's nascent tourism industry free from the visual vexations of poverty.  The only problem with this panhandler removal plan is that Kéba Dabo does such a good job of removing the unsightly beggars from their usual haunts that the "encombrements humains" ["human traffic jams"] (11) decide to go on strike outside the city to protest their mistreatment at the hands of the authorities--an irony which eventually causes Mour Ndiaye an embarrassing conflict of interest since the would-be Vice President needs the beggars to return to the city for just a few hours one day so he can treat them to a charitable feast mandated by the marabout he relies upon for spiritual guidance!  While far from the most exciting novel I've ever read, the leisurely La Grève des bàttu actually does a pretty decent job at blending realism and satire, social commentary and comedy.  I liked for, example, the edgy scene in which the abject beggars, previously described as being the bearers of "têtes moutonneuses" ["fleecy heads"] and limbs disfigured by leprosy and scabies (25), pontificate on how it's self interest and not compassion that drives the charity of the well to do; giving alms to the poor is a way to ward off "sorciers anthropophages" ["cannibalistic witch doctors"] and bad luck rather than a means to eliminate hunger among the indigent (72).  On a related note, I also liked the just slightly less edgy scene in which one beggar jokes with a counterpart that the latter's blindness is no excuse for not practicing a trade:  "Mais, ton métier, tu l'exerces !  Tu es mendiant !" ["But you have a profession!  You're a beggar!"] (110).

Aminata Sow Fall

domingo, 24 de julio de 2016

Spanish Lit Month 2016: 7/17-7/23 Links

Laia Jufresa

Thanks to some hardcore book bloggers out there, Spanish Lit Month 2016 rolls on with yet another week of double digit review counts.  Exciting stuff!  For those who'd like to join in on the action but are fretting that there's just one more week left in July, please note that Spanish Lit Month will be carrying over into August just like last year for anybody who wants to take advantage of an overtime session to get your Spanish language literature fiend on.  Until then, hope you enjoy all these new reviews and see you with another round of links next weekend.  Cheers!

David Hebblethwaite, David's Book World
Never Any End to Paris by Enrique Vila-Matas

Emma, Book Around the Corner
Exemplary Crimes by Max Aub

Grant, 1streading's Blog
The She-Devil in the Mirror by Horacio Castellanos Moya
Umami by Laia Jufresa

John, The Modern Novel

Melissa Beck, The Book Binder's Daughter
The Plimsoll Line by Juan Gracia Armendáriz
Blitz by David Trueba

Pat, South of Paris Books
Kiss of the Spider Woman by Manuel Puig
The Night by Rodrigo Blanco Calderón

Richard, Caravana de recuerdos
Lituma en los Andes by Mario Vargas Llosa

Stu, Winstonsdad's Blog
The Winterlings by Cristina Sánchez-Andrade

Tony, Tony's Reading List
The Body Where I Was Born by Guadalupe Nettel

Manuel Puig

viernes, 22 de julio de 2016

Lituma en los Andes

Lituma en los Andes (Austral, 2010)
by Mario Vargas Llosa
Peru, 1993

When three people mysteriously up and disappear from a remote mining town in Peru's central highlands at the height of the Sendero Luminoso [Shining Path] Maoist terrorist campaign of the 1980s, it suddenly dawns on Captain Lituma and his wet behind the ears assistant Tomás Carreño that they themselves are sitting ducks in the abandoned Guardia Civil outpost on the edge of the town where, in the midst of being shunned as outsiders by the predominantly Quechua-speaking locals, they realize that their suicide mission of an investigation likely won't amount to much: "Le voy a decir una cosa" ["I'm going to tell you something"], says the younger guardia civil member, usually the more optimistic one of the two.  "Usted y yo no saldremos vivos de aquí.  Nos tienen cercados, para qué engañarnos" ["You and I won't come out of here alive.  They have us surrounded, why kid ourselves?"] (18).  With this as his resigned, claustrophobic starting point, future Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa dips into his usual storytelling bag of tricks--artfully nested plotlines, "interlacing dialogues" masterfully juggling flashbacks, asynchronous time and narratorial POV--in the service of a moody, shadowy thriller unfortunately marred by a somewhat farfetched ending.  Those ten pages or so aside, I really enjoyed this evocation of a no future Peru--available in English as Death in the Andes--and would happily recommend it as a bleak page-turner just as long as you've already read all of Vargas Llosa's crucial 1960s novels and his equally primo 1981 La guerra del fin del mundo [The War of the End of the World].  If not, what are you waiting for, rookie?

Mario Vargas Llosa

domingo, 17 de julio de 2016

Spanish Lit Month 2016: 7/10-7/16 Links

A midweek heatwave and an end of the week cold fried my Spanish Lit Month 2016 posting plans last week.  Fortunately for all concerned, at least 10 other SLM bloggers have hardier constitutions (or at least better air conditioning) than I do.  The fruits of their fine reading and writing labors can be found below.  Enjoy!

David Hebblethwaite, David's Book World
Traces of Sandalwood by Asha Miró & Anna Soler-Pont

Grant, 1streading's Blog
Affections by Rodrigo Hasbún

JacquiWine, JacquiWine's Journal

John, The Modern Novel

Julianne Pachico, Never Stop Reading
(on Juan Gabriel Vásquez's Lovers on All Saints' Day and one other title)

Melissa Beck, The Book Binder's Daughter
The Clouds by Juan José Saer
The Plimsoll Line by Juan Gracia Armendáriz

Séamus, Vapour Trails
Tres by Roberto Bolaño

Stu, Winstonsdad's Blog
Affections by Rodrigo Hasbún
The Body Where I Was Born by Guadalupe Nettel

Tony, Tony's Reading List
God Is Round by Juan Villoro
Vicious by Xurxo Borrazás

Tony Messenger, Messengers Booker (and more)
Seeing Red by Lina Meruane
My Documents by Alejandro Zambra

domingo, 10 de julio de 2016

Spanish Lit Month 2016: 7/3-7/9 Links

Roberto Bolaño

Thanks to all of you who submitted posts for Spanish Lit Month 2016 this past week.  Thirteen different bloggers.  Almost twenty separate reviews having to do with works originally written in Basque, Catalan, and Galician in addition to Spanish.  A great week!

Amanda, Simpler Pastimes
Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo

Amateur Reader (Tom), Wuthering Expectations
Sweet taste of being alive - some clearer Antonio Machado

Annabel Gaskell, Annabookbel
Third Reich by Roberto Bolaño

Bellezza, Dolce Bellezza
The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

David Hebblethwaite, David's Book World

Grant, 1streading's Blog
Quesadillas by Juan Pablo Villalobos

JacquiWine, JacquiWine's Journal
The Man of Feeling by Javier Marías

John, The Modern Novel
La magnitud de la tragèdia (The Enormity of the Tragedy) by Quim Monzó

Melissa Beck, The Book Binder's Daughter
I'll Sell You a Dog by Juan Pablo Villalobos

Richard, Caravana de recuerdos
Kid Ñandubay by Bernardo Kordon
Hijo de hombre by Augusto Roa Bastos

Stu, Winstonsdad's Blog
One Million Cows by Manuel Rivas
The Lone Man by Bernardo Atxaga

Tony, Tony's Reading List
Umami by Laia Jufresa

Tony Messenger, Messengers Booker (and more)
The Large Glass by Mario Bellatin
Distant Star by Roberto Bolaño

Juan Pablo Villalobos

sábado, 9 de julio de 2016

Hijo de hombre

Hijo de hombre (Debolsillo, 2008)
by Augusto Roa Bastos
Argentina, 1960

Augusto Roa Bastos' 1974 Yo el Supremo [I the Supreme] was so fucking good--insanely good, in fact--that I had a hunch his 1960 Hijo de hombre [Son of Man] was bound to be a letdown in comparison.  Suffice it to say that it gives me no pleasure to crow about how right I was.  That being said, Hijo de hombre is far from a dud or anything.  A bit of a protein shake of some more or less straightforward historical fiction powder and the tonal bite of those gritty, hard-hitting social realism novels Mario Vargas Llosa would start pumping out a few years later, the work effectively novelizes over a hundred years of high mortality rate Paraguayan history beginning with a nod to Dr. Francia's "Perpetual Dictatorship" (1816-1840), moving on to the War of the Triple Alliance (1864-1870), and then ending with an extended close-up on the brutality of the Chaco War (1932-1935)--this last one a war Roa Bastos himself fought in and one Wikipedia deems the single "bloodiest military conflict fought in South America during the 20th century, between two of its poorest countries."  I know, I know--the joys of Paraguayan history aside, what's in it for you?  One good reason to spend some time with the novel is that it offers up a convincing sense of place.  This is clear from the descriptions of the anonymous poor observed at railroad stops--the same people over and over again, all with "caras de tierra en sequía" ["faces of lands in drought"] (111)--as well as the reference to yerba mate as "esa planta antropófaga, que se alimenta de sudor y sangre humana" ["that man-eating plant, which feeds off human blood and sweat"] (130).  Another good reason is that it includes some remarkable vignettes--the scene where a husband and wife trying to escape from their slavery-like existence at a mate plantation only to be ultimately confronted by a venomous snake darting through the air was worthy of prime Quiroga.  And while certainly conventional compared to Yo el Supremo, Hijo de hombre does sport a cameo or two from Halley's Comet and, "como en una gran pesadilla" ["as in a horrible nightmare"] (219), the best, most visionary scene involving dancing lepers I've ever encountered.  In other words, a Paraguayan Book of Ezekiel composed in Spanish and Guarani and published in exile in neighboring Argentina.

Augusto Roa Bastos (1917-2005)

miércoles, 6 de julio de 2016

Kid Ñandubay

Kid Ñandubay (Grupo Editorial Norma, 2000)
por Bernardo Kordon
Argentina, 1971

Kid Ñandubay es una excelente novela corta ambientada en el mundo de boxeo argentino en los años 1920 y 1930.  En sus mejores momentos, huele a sudor y sueños rotos y recortes de prensa antiguos.  Su autor, Bernardo Kordon (1915-2002, arriba), fue porteño y hincha de Arlt.  Su narrador, Jack Berstein, es un porteño joven y prometedor que quiere ser boxeador de verdad algún día.  "Un boxeador de verdad", explica el pibe con fervor, "no es un peleador sino un combatiente, y así me había dicho el entrenador del Belwarp: que yo tenía pasta de combatiente" (153).  Cerca del final, como si hubiera sido estafado, el boxeador añade: "Todo hombre respeta a un combatiente y ésta es mi profesión, aunque casi siempre no me da para comer" (209).  En un sentido pues, Kid Ñandubay tiene que ver con el auge y caída del protagonista como evoluciona desde campeón del barrio cuando chico en Buenos Aires hasta convertirse en el boxeador alias Kid Ñandubay en un circo de provincias como un adulto.  En otro sentido, el relato es una carta de amor a la capital en otra época.  También hay un giro imprevisto al final relacionado con la revelación que Jack o Jacobo Berstein es un judío de ascendencia rusa, pero no voy a decir nada sobre esto porque vale la pena de leerlo por sí mismo.  En todo caso, la voz del narrador es la que triunfa aquí que hable de la Buenos Aires de su niñez ("La verdad es que entre cafishios y chorros no se querían nada" [138]) o que hable de su experiencia peleando en clubes de mala muerte en el Interior como él donde "el combate se realizó en [una] confitería convertida en campo de deportes" (181).  A continuación, se puede encontrar una especie de instántanea Polaroid de Baires en las palabras del boxeador que me gustó mucho.  Nocaut.

Kid Ñandubay es el último relato de Cross a la mandíbula.  Cuentos argentinos de box (Buenos Aires: Grupo Editorial Norma, 2000, 131-212), selección y prólogo de Sergio S. Olguín.
En vez de ir al Café Tokio, el Coco me llevó a escuchar tangos en El Nacional.  Parecía preocupado y caminaba mirándose las puntiagudas puntas de sus botines abotonados.
-Ayer no me fue bien en Mataderos.
No agregó otra palabra y yo tampoco le pregunté nada.  Había que esperar que largara prenda y mientras tanto escuchamos unos tangos en El Nacional.  Porque algo diferenciaba a los cafishios criollos de los franceses y era el culto del tango.  Entonces Carlos Gardel no era más famoso que Ignacio Corsini, y mis amigos cafishios preferían a Agustín Magaldi porque era más sentimental, y recuerdo que los tangos que más les gustaban eran "El penado 14" y "Las cuarenta".  Otro cantor que querían con locura era Ernesto Famá, especialmente cuando cantaba tangos como "Cambalache", y les gustaba verlo actuar tan flaco y pícaro, cuando al cantar estiraba su mano larga y cubierta de anillos.  Del mismo modo adoraban a Azucena Maizani, y el Coco siempre iba a los teatros donde actuaba La Ñata Gaucha, le gustaba su voz gruesa como de macho y que vistiera de hombre, y en cambio se reía de Libertad Lamarque, de quien decía que era una bobalicona, apelativo que recuerdo porque nunca lo había escuchado y entonces lo aprendí, porque para palabras difíciles los fiocas sabían un montón, lo mismo que de educación, y hasta había algunos que hablaban francés porque sabían viajar por allí.  Por eso cuando hablo de los cafishios empiezo a criticarlos como se debe hacer, pero después los voy defendiendo: la verdad es que no eran malos tipos y además de ayudarme, me enseñaron muchas cosas.  Por ejemplo existía la amistad y algo muy importante: eso de tener clase.  A veces dos cafishios amigos se encontraban y juntando las monedas apenas si reunían un mango.  Otros tipos podían comprar pan y fiambre para comer en la pieza, o llenarse con dos cafés con leche y pan con manteca.  Justamente esto era falta de clase: un cafishio de café con leche era un renegado de su uniforme.  Los dos fiocas de verdad revoloteaban una moneda para eligir quién iba a comer, pero comer como un señor, y el perdedor lo acompañaba y se sentaban juntos en el restaurante, y el fioca que no le tocaba comer llevaba un escarbadiente en la boca y le decía al mozo que él ya había comido, y no dejaba de limpiarse los dientes, no perdía la compostura aunque se muriera de hambre, y el que había ganado trataba de que le quedara una moneda para invitar al amigo con un café y entraban en el Tokio o en el Marzzoto con los escarbadientes en la boca y nadie podía saber quién de los dos no había comido.  Eso era un ejemplo de tener clase.  Otro era el silencio del Coco.  Una noche y un día de silencio.  Hasta que salimos de El Nacional.
(Kid Ñandubay, 146-147)

domingo, 3 de julio de 2016

Spanish Lit Month 2016: 7/1-7/2 Links

Since Spanish Lit Month 2016 is now underway, here's the first of several weekly link round-ups (this time just for the first two days of the event).  Hope you enjoy the reviews--see you next Sunday with more.  Happy reading!

David Hebblethwaite, David's Book World
The Skating Rink by Roberto Bolaño

Grant, 1streading's Blog
The House Of Ulloa by Emilia Pardo Bazán

Richard, Caravana de recuerdos
La última niebla by María Luisa Bombal

Stu, Winstonsdad's Blog
The Sky Over Lima by Juan Gómez Bárcena

sábado, 2 de julio de 2016

La última niebla

La última niebla (Editorial Andrés Bello, 1996)
by María Luisa Bombal
Argentina, 1934

While hispanistas appear to be fairly evenly divided on the loaded "was she or wasn't she a feminist?" question w/r/t to the Chilean María Luisa Bombal--a question perhaps made more complicated by the  tabloid-style tidbit that the writer (1910-1980, above) once attempted to exact revenge on an ex-lover who had jilted her by pulling a gun out of her purse and emptying three slugs into the guy a good ten years after their break-up--the good news for Spanish Lit Month 2016 readers is that you can easily settle the matter for yourself by immersing yourself in the oneiric 40-page world that is La última niebla [The Final Mist].  For my part, I thoroughly enjoyed this artistically arresting, erotically charged but somewhat morbid introduction to the enigmatic Bombal.  Despite a # of seemingly over the top plot elements having to do with a first wife who had died young, two suicide attempts by separate characters, a death by drowning, the gothic presence of an almost supernatural fog, and the female protagonist's apparent descent into madness as a revolt against the tedium of her marriage, though, the strangely down to earth voice of Bombal's unnamed narrator and the claustrophobic intensity of troubled marriage protestations like "La muerte me parece una aventura más accessible que la huida" ["Death seems a more accessible affair than flight"] (66) are what won me over.  As an added bonus for people who care about this sort of shit, I have it on good authority that Bombal's 1938 follow-up, La amortajada [The Shrouded Woman], is even better/more compelling--and proto-feminist angle aside, might have been the novel whose mixture of living, dead and, ahem, living dead characters gave Juan Rulfo the idea for Pedro Páramo.  Sweet.

La última niebla, first published as a standalone novella in Buenos Aires, appears on pages 55-95 of María Luisa Bombal's Obras completas (Santiago de Chile: Editorial Andrés Bello, 1996) compiled by Lucía Guerra.  Bombal later subtantially reworked the novel into English as House of Mist.  John of The Modern Novel has a review of La última niebla here, and Nicole of bibliographing has a review of House of Mist here.