by Carmen Laforet
A red card for boring might seem a little harsh of a penalty for this otherwise unassuming novella about a young married woman's struggle for financial and emotional independence in postwar Spain, but on the other hand you and I both know that I'm never going to get my 50 pages of reading time back. A mostly uninvolving follow-up to Laforet's dazzling debut effort Nada--maybe not soporific exactly (well, except for an excruciating crying jag scene at the end) but sort of bland and not all that exciting in the tradition of bands what follow up raw debut albums chock full of three minute pop songs with overly restrained sophomore efforts laden with a bunch of overproduced, medium tempo numbers clocking in at five minutes plus to demonstrate their newfound maturity as songwriters or something. Why "maturity" always has to equal a lack of hooks and/or energy is a matter I'll leave for you music types to explain to me someday, but in the case of El piano [The Piano] the parallel question is why the talented Laforet would want to abandon that vivid first-person voice of Nada for the colorless third-person narration here. I don't get it. Whatever, no big deal, nobody ever promised me I was going to enjoy everything I read for Spanish Lit Month anyway. (Menoscuarto Ediciones)
Carmen Laforet (1921-2004)
El piano is the first of seven Laforet novellas featured in the collection Siete novelas cortas [Seven Novellas, not available in English translation at present]. The other titles include La llamada, El viaje divertido, La niña, Los emplazados, El último verano, and Un noviazgo, all written between 1952 and 1954. El piano appears on pages 21-75 of the Menoscuarto edition.
Other works by Laforet include Nada [Nada], 1945, a novel I highly recommend; La isla y los demonios (1952); La mujer nueva (1955); and La insolación (1962). In 2007, Menoscuarto put out a collection of Laforet's short stories under the title Carta a don Juan.
Caroline of Beauty Is a Sleeping Cat, one of the earliest people to get behind the idea of a Spanish Lit Month taking place, enthusiastically reviewed Nada on her blog last year. Click here for her great post.
Here's hoping the only way is up for your reading month ;)ResponderBorrar
Thanks, Tony--the next couple choices in line will make it much easier for me to play the gracious host!Borrar
How disappointing. I wouldn't have thought her capable of being bland. Too bad. Thanks for the kind words and the link.ResponderBorrar
It's one of the posts that gets the most visits btw.
I'm enjoying my first Latin American book and will post about it on Thursday, I hope.
Yes, that was a bit of an unpleasant surprise, Caroline. I hope the other six novellas in the collection are better, but I'm afraid Laforet's been booted off the team for the rest of the month now. Moving on to happier thoughts, I'm not at all surprised that Nada gets a lot of visits on your blog. The combination of a great book and a passionate review are what we're all looking for on book blogs much of the time, isn't it? P.S. Looking forward to that first review of yours!Borrar
At least I don't have to add this to my notional TBR pile, the one I'm hoping to finish in one of my future lives.ResponderBorrar
Ah but then you do introduce one for the pile, just when I thought it was safe to go on.
Glad to see you discovered the stealth Nada recommendation buried amongst all that griping, Séamus. That book is a real corker, which makes the relatively dud-like nature of El piano all the more of a letdown. In any event, I must have picked up a similar "notional TBR pile" to yours somewhere. Maybe we shop at the same stores without knowing it? Cheers!Borrar
sure itll be the only blip and maybe why it isn't in english Richard ,all the best stuResponderBorrar
I don't think hardly anything by Laforet is available in English, Stu, which makes me glad that they translated her consensus greatest work first. Anyway, as I told Tony, my next couple of posts will be on more entertaining material for sure. One boring book won't stop me!Borrar
I suppose, since I never thought that highly of Nada, I shall probably be giving this a miss anyway.ResponderBorrar
I've always thought it's because bands are able to infuse their first albums with the whole of their lives up to that point, and when they come to their second album find they don't have anything left. Rather like some writers who write very successful but highly personal first novels, and then spend the rest of their careers writing nothing.
Obooki, I can't imagine you liking anything about this novella if you didn't like Nada all that much. I think Laforet swallowed too many Henry James pills while writing it or something. As far as the music thing goes, I think your explanation accounts for much of the solution to the problem. However, I think many musicians also think they have to "progress" or stretch themselves or become more commercial somehow and shy away from doing something they're good at because they think more people will appreciate something else. The rawness and the energy often get lost along the way as a result, which is fine if you're a singer/songwriter I suppose but not so fine if you're a rock band.Borrar
I'm reading seven novellas too (by different writers) for this month. Eight actually, but one is from Portuguese. Hope to post on a few of them.ResponderBorrar
She looks like Clarice Lispector in that picture.
Rise, I didn't notice the Lispector resemblance until you mentioned it--perhaps because I'm still mad at the Brazilian after my disappointing first "date" with her a while back (I do like the insouciance of Laforet in the photo, though). I think I remember reading about your novella collection, but I can't remember who the authors are now--should be a nice surprise for me!Borrar