viernes, 31 de enero de 2014

The 2014 Caravana de recuerdos Ibero-American Readalong: January Links

Thanks in large part to the first half of our 2666 group read, which is in full effect in NWA-speak, the 2014 Caravana de recuerdos Ibero-American Readalong got off to a running start despite my own beginning of the year reading torpor.  Here are the links from the bomb ass bloggers who joined me in taking a turn at the mike this month.

Bellezza, Dolce Bellezza

Richard, Caravana de recuerdos
Las Hortensias by Felisberto Hernández
2666 by Roberto Bolaño

Rise, in lieu of a field guide

Sarah, what we have here is a failure to communicate

Images: Roberto Arlt en français! 
Bitchin' covers of Les sept fous [original title: Los siete locos; English title: The Seven Madmen] and Les lance-flammes [original title: Los lanzallamas; English title: _____ ] become even more bitchin' when you stop to consider that the latter novel has yet to make it into English after 80+ years.  English language publishers, tsk, tsk.

miércoles, 29 de enero de 2014


2666 (Anagrama, 2007)
by Roberto Bolaño
Spain, 2004

A quick intro post.  Revisiting "La parte de los críticos" ["The Part About the Critics"], "La parte de Amalfitano" ["The Part About Amalfitano"] and "La parte de Fate" ["The Part About Fate"] in the company of our readalong group which is scheduled to move on to the controversial "La parte de los crímenes" ["The Part About the Crimes"] and then "La parte de Archimboldi" ["The Part About Archimboldi"] in February, I found that I'd inadvertently reopened the old internal debate about whether Los detectives salvajes [The Savage Detectives] or 2666 is my favorite Bolaño of them all.  Problem: I'm also fond of La literatura nazi en América [Nazi Literature in the Americas] and its corrosive humor.  And another: perhaps "favorite" isn't the type of descriptor that should be applied to this sort of work.  In any event, for people who haven't read 2666 before, I don't think it'd be revealing too much to remark that the second half of the book frames one set of horrendous crimes--the ones based on the still unsolved femicides in Ciudad Juárez, the real life model for the novel's fictional Santa Teresa--against an altogether different one that I'll pass over in silence for now.  While reclusive German author Benno von Archimboldi is the putative protagonist connecting the five parts of the novel (at least in spirit), it should become increasingly clear that Santa Teresa is the real star of the show for better or for worse.  By star of the show, I of course mean vortex of evil.  In this sense, parts 1-3 of the book are something like the calm before the storm or, for Poe fans, the beginning of the descent into the maelstrom.  On that note, the Baudelaire epigraph--"Un oasis de horror en medio de un desierto de aburrimiento" [French original: "Une oasis d'horreur dans un désert d'ennui"; English translation by Natasha Wimmer: "An oasis of horror in a desert of boredom"]--hints at what lies ahead for while the oasis of horror/desert of boredom imagery sounds like it could be applied to the hellish Santa Teresa, even a cursory glance at Baudelaire's "Le Voyage" from Les Fleurs du Mal reveals that the oasis isn't really a specific place but a reflection of "notre image" ["our image"] or ourselves.  More on whether Santa Teresa is made in our image next month; more on what I enjoyed about the first three parts of 2666, beginning with a few specifics about the narrative voice, by the weekend.  In the meantime, please check back here from time to time as I'll be adding links to other people's 2666 posts once they're ready.

Bellezza, Dolce Bellezza
Roberto Bolaño's 2666: The Part About The Critics
Roberto Bolaño's 2666: The Part About Amalfitano
Roberto Bolaño's 2666: The Part About Fate

Frances, Nonsuch Book
2666: the part about the critics

Miguel, St. Orberose
The Part About the Critics
The Part About Amalfitano
The Part About Fate
The Part About the Crimes 
The Part About Archimboldi

Richard, Caravana de recuerdos
Authorial Voice(s) in the First Half of 2666 #1
Authorial Voice(s) in the First Half of 2666 #2 
"La dimensión desconocida" by Sergio González Rodríguez 
Three Readers in "The Part About the Crimes" 

Sarah, what we have here is a failure to communicate
2666: 'Ugh, said the critics...'
2666: 'The world is a strange and fascinating place, he thought.'

Scott, seraillon
2666: The Part About the Critics
2666: The Part About Amalfitano
2666: The Part About Fate 
2666: The Part About the Crimes

domingo, 26 de enero de 2014

Las Hortensias

Las Hortensias (El cuenco de plata, 2009)
by Felisberto Hernández
Uruguay, 1949

Man, I sure wish all my César Aira-loving friends could/would read this unpredictable, insanely entertaining and way over the top pre-Aira example of "delirious realism" from the Uruguayan master blaster Felisberto Hernández (above, 1902-1964).  Pure genius!  You see, the novella Las Hortensias, available in English as The Daisy Dolls, finds the Río de la Plata cult icon Felisberto walking the glistening knife edge between downright hilarious and outright creepy throughout his nearly 60-page account of eccentric married man Horacio's infatuation with his impressive collection of just slightly larger than life-sized dolls.  While Horacio's longsuffering wife María Hortensia is enough of a good sport at the outset to prepare various "surprises" for her husband involving the dolls, helps her man stage his after dinner exhibitions of the dolls in various poses behind glass display cases (the guests try and guess what the "adventure" is about before reading the description of the scene that's been prepared by Horacio and his helpers), and even encourages Horacio to kiss a new doll that's a lookalike of her for laughs ("Él sentía por Hortensia la antipatía que podía provocar un sucedáneo.  La piel era de cabritilla...él se disponía a hacerlo pensando que iba a sentir gusto a cuero o que iba a besar un zapato" ["He felt the aversion toward Hortensia that only a substitute for the real thing could provoke.  Her skin was made of kidskin...he prepared to do it thinking that he was going to experience the taste of leather or that he was going to kiss a shoe"]) (27, ellipses added), things begin to take a turn for the worse after Horacio increasingly takes more interest in the new "Hortensia" than the suddenly somewhat boring María Hortensia.  The latter eventually becomes extremely jealous of Hortensia and Horacio's other manufactured playmates, and the non-human Hortensia is stabbed to death so to speak not once but twice.  While all this would probably just make for a strange or a disturbing tale in less talented hands, Felisberto--a silent movie pianist and an itinerant concert musician by trade--is nothing if not a consummate showman and a sort of bohemian bon vivant as a writer.  His humor, for example, comes served in frisky, friskier, and friskiest highball glasses as in the scenes where 1) Horacio asks the dollmaker Facundo to modify Hortensia so as to make her more lifelike in regard to her "calor humano" ["human warmth"]: "Además me gustaría que ella no fuera tan dura, que al tomarla se tuviera una sensacíon más agradable..." ["Also, I'd like it if she weren't so stiff, so that it'd be more pleasant when taking her into my arms"] (31); 2) Horacio, separated from María but believing that she'll return, decides to take advantage of her temporary absence upon discovering a new doll--"una rubia divina" ["a divine blonde"]--at Facundo's: "Horacio pensó, en el primer instante, ponerle un apartamento; pero ahora se le ocurría otra cosa; la traería a su casa y la pondría en la vitrina de las que esperaban colocación.  Después que todos se acostaran el la llevaría al dormitorio; y antes que se levantaran la colocaría de nuevo en la vitrina.  Por otra parte él esperaba que María no volvería a su casa en altas horas de la noche" ["Horacio thought, at first, about setting her up in an apartment, but now another idea occurred to him.  He would bring her to his house and put her in the display case of the dolls that were awaiting a permanent location.  Then, after everybody went to bed, he'd bring her up to his bedroom and put her back again before everybody woke up.  Besides, he was hoping that María wouldn't return home at such a late hour in the night"](49-50); and 3) when María finally decides to divorce Horacio after reading this newspaper article about the sudden popularity of Facundo's Hortensia dolls (59):

 "En el último piso de la tienda La Primavera, se hará una gran exposición y se dice que algunas de las muñecas que vestirán los últimos modelos serán Hortensias.  Esta noticia coincide con el ingreso de Facundo, el fabricante de las famosas muñecas, a la firma comercial de dicha tienda.  Vemos alarmados cómo esta nueva falsificación del pecado original  --de la que ya hemos hablado en otras ediciones-- se abre paso en nuestro mundo.  He aquí uno de los volantes de propaganda, sorprendidos en uno de nuestros principales clubes: ¿Es usted feo?  No se preocupe.  ¿Es usted tímido?  No se preocupe.  En una Hortensia tendrá usted un amor silencioso, sin riñas, sin presupuestos agobiantes, sin comadronas".

["There will be a grand exposition on the top floor of the La Primavera store, and it is said that some of the dolls that will be sporting the latest styles will be Hortensias.  This news coincides with the admission of Facundo, the manufacturer of the famous dolls, into the said store's commercial concern.  We are alarmed to see how this new falsification of the original sin--which we already have spoken about in other editions--is making new inroads into our world.  I have here one of the advertising flyers, discovered by chance in one of our major clubs: Are you ugly?  Don't worry.  Are you shy?  Don't worry.  With a Hortensia, you will enjoy a silent love without quarrels, without worrisome expenses, without midwives."]

For brevity's sake, I'll have to pass over the gag about the shy man who purchases what's practically the sister-in-law doll of Horacio's new favorite and the bit about the Hortensia love nest that Horacio eventually sets up elsewhere.  Beyond the salacious humor, though, there's a lively unpredictability to the writing in Las Hortensias that's just totally engaging.  Seemingly fantastic scenes where Horacio kisses the dolls and the dolls seem to move in response, for example, are counterbalanced by others where the dolls seem to sit in silent judgement of him.  "Después empezó a encontrar, en las caras de las muñecas, expresiones parecidas a las de sus empleadas: algunas le inspiraban la misma desconfianza; y otras, la seguridad de que estaban contra él; había una, de nariz respingada, que parecía decir: 'Y a mí qué me importa'" ["He later began to find expressions in the faces of the dolls similar to those of his female employees: some inspired the same sense of mistrust and others the certainty that they were against him.  There was one, with her snooty nose, who seemed to be saying: 'And what do I care about that?'"] (29).  Philosophical thoughts about whether spirits can descend into the bodies of dolls just as ghosts can haunt houses occupy Horacio here and there, but too much drinking, his phobias about mirrors and evil omens, and the possible onset of madness ground the character's concerns regarding inanimate objects in ways that rationalists won't object to.  On the storytelling level, there's the presence of anecdotes like this--"La gente de los alrededores había hecho una leyenda en la cual acusaban al matrimonio de haber dejado morir a una hermana de María para quedarse con su dinero; entonces habían decidido expiar su falta haciendo vivir con ellos a una muñeca que, siendo igual a la difunta, les recordara a cada instante el delito" ["The people in the neighborhood had fabricated a legend in which they accused the couple of having let a sister of María's die so they could keep her money.  Then, the couple had decided to expiate their guilt by letting a doll live with them who looked exactly like the dead woman, so that they would be reminded of their crime at all times"] (30)--and descriptions like this--"Pero en la noche, después de cenar, fue al salón y le pareció que el piano era un gran ataúd y que el silencio velaba a una música que había muerto hacía poco tiempo" ["But in the evening, after having dinner, he went to the salon and it seemed like the piano was a giant coffin and that the silence kept vigil over a piece of music that had died not too long ago" (55).  To end on a less depressing note, I should probably mention that the great irony of all this is that Las Hortensias was supposedly written for and dedicated to the second of Felisberto's eight wives as a wedding gift.  She, apparently unbeknownst to him, was reportedly a KGB spy, and yet there's an otherwise insignificant scene in the story in which Horacio asks his Russian servant what he thinks of his latest doll: "Muy hermosa, señor.  Se parece mucho a una espía que conocí en la guerra" ["Very beautiful, sir.  She looks quite a bit like a spy I met in the war"] (57).

Illustration from the first standalone edition of Las Hortensias:
"A María Luisa" ["To María Luisa"], it says in type, "en el día que dejó de ser mi novia: 14-11-49 Felisberto" ["on the day that she stopped being my girlfriend: 14-11-49 Felisberto"], it concludes by hand.

This novella, the formal kickoff to my 2014 short story of the week project in which I intend to alternate short stories and novellas of my own choosing with the suggestions that various readers left me on this post here last year, can be found on pages 17-74 of Felisberto Hernández's Las Hortensias y otros relatos (Buenos Aires: El cuenco de plata, 2009).  The English version of The Daisy Dolls, translated from the Spanish by Luis Harss (whom some of you might remember from this post on João Guimarães Rosa), is available in the Felisberto anthology Piano Stories, which was just reissued by New Directions last week if I'm not mistaken.  Edit: Rise of the great in lieu of a field guide just reminded me that he actually wrote about Harss' translation of The Daisy Dolls in a post on the Masterworks of Latin American Short Fiction: Eight Novellas anthology (Harper Collins, 1996) almost two years ago.  Click on the link for a particularly juicy post from Rise and a mouthwatering discussion of what other titles people think deserve to be added to the list.

For more on Felisberto's second wife in Spanish, see Alicia Dujovne Ortiz's "Felisberto Hernández y la espía soviética" linked at Los Grandes de la Literatura Rioplatense blog here.

lunes, 20 de enero de 2014


Out [Auto] (Vintage International, 2005)
by Natsuo Kirino [translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder]
Japan, 1997

Leaving aside the rather embarrassing matter of how the idiotic Out ever fell into my clutches in the first place, the next time you're thinking about passing up buying an Akutagawa or a Kawabata that you'd like to read for Bellezza's Japanese Literature Challenge 7 and Tony's January in Japan and instead decide to settle on an obviously lesser work just because it's the only Japanese novel you have left on your TBR, please profit from my hard-earned lesson.  Fuck me!  Laughably bad (and yet excruciatingly boring) crime/dismemberment/sadism/social commentary novel in which doltish interior monologues ("An evil omen, she thought, looking away.  Yayoi had just killed her husband.  What could be more ill-omened than that?"), hamfisted descriptions aplenty ("She was sweet, even apart from her value at the club, but for him she was just a fancy pet he liked to spoil.  Like the skin that covered their bodies, his relationship with her was all on the surface"), and unconvincing character exposition/psychology ("He felt it was useless trying to explain to someone as young as Anna that usually hatred was an emotion arising out of the desire to be accepted by another person, and it didn't apply in this case") (52, 179-180, 233) all go to show that there's a reason Natsuo Kirino's never mentioned alongside the likes of Chandler and Hammett and Highsmith (never mind Proust and Musil and Woolf).  Perhaps worst of all, in a "feminist" novel (not my idea) which spends 400 pages building up to an entirely predictable game of cat and mouse between its resourceful but love-starved protagonist and the sadistic murdering rapist who's out to get her, Kirino has the supermarket paperback novelist's gall to suggest that the two characters are just two peas in the same Stockholm syndrome pod (376):

She knew now that his hatred was on the verge of erupting, and that he seemed to be enjoying the game of pushing it to the brink.  She had seen the amusement in his eyes, seen how much pleasure it gave him to play cat and mouse with her.  But she'd also seen that something in him was unhinged and impelling him toward an explosion.  That same thing was inside her, too: it was the part of her that had secretly thought she might be willing to die as long as it was at his hand.

Drivel.  Or as The New York Times Book Review would have it: "A nervy thriller...  A potent cocktail of urban blight, perverse feminism and vigilante justice."  Like I said.

Natsuo Kirino

miércoles, 15 de enero de 2014

Étoile errante

Étoile errante (Gallimard, 2008)
by J.M.G. Le Clézio
France, 1992

Whatever the esoteric connections among the French-Mauritian J.M.G. Le Clézio, the Frenchman J.M.G. Arcimboldi and the German Benno von Archimboldi that I'd hoped to divine (the obvious thematic parallels: war and exodus and exile + the patron saint of war and exodus and exile, Thanatos), I was somehow wildly unprepared for how totally stunning--and how thoroughly heartwrenching--my first Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio would turn out to be.  Obviously, I should have known better.  In any event, the main étoile errante ["wandering star"] of the title is a 13-year old French Jewish girl named Esther Grève, nicknamed Estrellita or Little Star by her father, whose life will devolve into a perpetual flight once the relatively laissez-faire Italian occupation troops flee her quiet mountain town in the summer of 1943 and are replaced by the bloodthirsty Germans.  Arriving in Israel after the war having journeyed over mountain ranges and storm-tossed seas in search of sanctuary, the now 17-year old Esther will cross paths with a sister teenaged étoile errante in Nejma, an orphaned Palestinian girl whose momentary chance encounter with Esther and the simple exchange of names in their childhood notebooks will mark the two of them for life as they go their separate ways fleeing death and destruction in their warzone homeland.  So why subject oneself to a "depressing" fictional coming of age story set against the backdrop of the Holocaust and the beginning of the modern struggle between Israelis and Palestinians?  Well, assuming that at least one of the reasons we all read is to better understand "the human condition," you could hardly ask for a better tour guide to hell than Le Clézio when he's writing on the impact of war and dislocation (physical and psychological) as imposed on children by adults.  When the Jewish children leave the non-Jewish children behind in their flight from the Nazis near the outset of the novel, for example, the young protagonist tries to remember the names of all the friends she knows she'll never see again.  Returning to the Jewish families in flight, she then observes that "ils semblaient des orphelins en promenade, déjà tristes, fatigués, ne regardant rien ni personne" ["they seemed like orphans on an excursion, already sad, worn out, not looking at anything or anyone"].  A moment later, we learn that "c'était la première fois, c'était une douleur, Esther s'apercevait qu'elle n'était pas comme les gens du village" ["it was the first time, it was a sorrow, that Esther realized that she wasn't like the other people in the village"] (92).  Unfortunately for both Esther and the refugee group as a whole on their journey across the mountains, the worst lies ahead near the French and Italian border as the Wehrmacht is about to give new meaning to the term others by turning the ones who can't escape into war orphans.  Elsewhere, Nejma's memoir section draws attention to how the very young and the very old are among the first to suffer when the United Nations abandons them at a critical time of famine and plague and strife with the newcomers: "Ainsi en ont décidé les étrangers, pour que nous disparaissions à jamais de la surface de la terre" ["Thus have the outsiders decided it so that we'll disappear from the face of the earth forever"] (225).  Sound familiar?  On that note, I should probably point out that even though Étoile errante can definitely hold its complex and somber own with something as profoundly wrenching as Vasily Grossman's Life and Fate, it's much more subdued, less pyrotechnic-ridden, in terms of its use of language.  A possible exception: the twin images of "vipères enlacées dans leur combat amoureux" ["vipers entwined in amorous combat"] that frame the beginning and end of Esther's story [344]. And another: the almost musical way in which, aboard the ship bound for the Holy Land, the Hebrew language is described as a balm to Esther amid her suffering when she hears the book of Genesis read aloud (203):

Dans le silence de la mer, la voix de Joël s'est élevée.  Il lisait lentement, dans cette langue étrange et douce, la langue qu'avaient parlée Adam et Eve au Paradis, la langue qu'avait parlée Moïse dans le désert de Sin.  Esther ne comprenait pas, mais les mots entraient en elle, comme ils l'avaient déjà fait, se mêlaient à son souffle.  Les mots resplendissaient sur la mer si bleue, ils éclairaient chaque partie du navire, même les endroits salis ou meurtris par le voyage, même les taches sur le pont, ou les déchirures de la voile.

[Amid the silence of the sea, Joel's voice was raised.  He read slowly, in that strange and sweet language, the language that Adam and Eve had spoken in paradise, the language which Moses had spoken in the Sinai desert.  Esther didn't understand, but the words entered into her, as they had done before, mixing with her breath.  The words were resplendent on the sea so blue, they illuminated every part of the ship, even the dirty spots or the places dinged-up by the voyage, even the stains on the bridge, or the tears on the sails.]

Whether or not you're swayed by my two exceptions, part of that apparent simplicity in the novel probably has to do with the mix of first- and third-person narration.  Esther, recounting the wait for the boat that would take her and a group of passengers from Marseille to the Holy Land, rejects the importance of time given all that they had suffered to date: "Le temps a cessé d'exister pour nous" ["Time has ceased to exist for us"] (147).  And part of that probably has to do with a striving for simplicity as an aesthetic choice.  When a friend warns Esther of the dangers that were everywhere in her new home, we are told that "Esther entendait cela, elle voyait la mort qui brillait, dans le ciel, dans les pierres, dans les pins et les cyprés.  La mort brillait comme un lumière, comme le sel, sous les pas, dans chaque arpent de terre" ["Esther understood that, she saw death shining in the heavens, in the rocks, in the pines and cypresses.  Death was shining like a lamp, sparkling like the salt, under their steps, within each acre of land"].  The moral of the story according to our petite étoile?  "Nous marchons sur les morts" ["We're walking on the dead"], both figuratively and literally, as all those "morts...oubliés, abandonnés" ["dead...forgotten, abandoned"] (207, ellipses added) are a living presence haunting the memory of those that survive them.  "Les pierres blanches brillaient ici" ["The white stones shine here"] because "elles étaient les ossements de ceux qui avaient disparu" ["they were the bones of those who had disappeared"] (Ibid.)  You see, there's no need for pyrotechnics with moments like these.  Put another way, is it too early to start talking about the best books of the year or what?

J.M.G. Le Clézio

Étoile errante, my first book of the year, was read for the Books on France 2014 Reading Challenge.  Next up: probably either La Chanson de Roland or Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal, who can say?

miércoles, 8 de enero de 2014

Books on France 2014 Reading Challenge

Although I haven't participated in any full-year reading challenges for the last few years, I've decided to come out of reading challenge retirement so to speak for the Books on France 2014 Reading Challenge hosted by Emma of Words and Peace.  My goal, in the event anybody's interested in hearing the plans of an inveterate and hence not to be trusted slacker, is to read 24 books by French authors (well, taking advantage of the "books on France" loophole, probably mixing in a handful of books on French history by non-French authors as well) with a chronological focus running roughly from La Chanson de Roland (a reread) to J.M.G. Le Clézio (just finished his Étoile errante a short while ago) and more or less evenly divided among the medieval, early modern, and modern periods.  While I'm not exactly lacking in ideas for things to read since a) my French author TBR has grown to somewhere in the vicinity of 50 titles at hand and b) I intend to finally get around to reading my handsome and sure to be idea-inspiring 1,100 page A New History of French Literature, as always I'd still love to receive suggestions from any of you who might care to share a "shouldn't miss" author or work that I, um, shouldn't miss.  Suggestions?

Books Read
1) Étoile errante by J.M.G. Le Clézio
2) Rue des Boutiques Obscures by Patrick Modiano
3) La ciudad de las ratas [La Cité des rats] by Copi
4) Sylvie by Gérard de Nerval
5) Le Ravissement de Lol V. Stein by Marguerite Duras
6) Hell in a Very Small Place: The Siege of Dien Bien Phu by Bernard B. Fall
7) Rosie Carpe by Marie NDiaye
8) Le Père Goriot by Honoré de Balzac
9) The Girl with the Golden Eyes [La Fille aux yeux d'or] by Honoré de Balzac
10) A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962 by Alistair Horne
11) Les bouts de bois de Dieu by Ousmane Sembene
12) Abbés by Pierre Michon
13) Morituri by Yasmina Khadra
14) Winter Mythologies [Mythologies d'hiver] by Pierre Michon

viernes, 3 de enero de 2014

Autobiografía de Irene

Autobiografía de Irene (Emecé Editores, 1999)
por Silvina Ocampo
Argentina, 1948

Autobiografía de Irene es el segundo de cuatro volúmenes de cuentos reunidos en la colección Cuentos completos I, de Silvina Ocampo, publicada por Emecé Editores en 1999.  Tengo muchas ganas de seguir el sendero Ocampo antes del fin del año con La furia, de 1959, y Las invitadas, de 1961, lo que no me dejaría mucho tiempo por la obra temprana Viaje olvidado, de 1937.  ¿Alguién sabe si valga la pena de intentarla?  En todo caso, Autobiografía de Irene me gustó mucho aunque tres de sus cinco cuentos no me impresionaran tanto.  Había leido el famosísimo cuento que da título a la colección hace años, por supuesto, pero me encantó más que nunca durante esta relectura.  Como un Ireneo Funes al revés saltando desde las páginas del cuento de Borges, Irene Andrade, la narradora de 25 años que es ya abatida por la vida, está afligida con una condición rara en que ella puede prever el futuro pero no puede acordarse del pasado (Irene/Ireno, ¿entendés?).  A sabiendas de que sus recuerdos solo van a regresar a ella cuando la hora anticipada de su muerte la acerque, Irene aprovecha del día decisivo para meditar sobre cómo pronosticó (y estaba en luto por) la muerte de su padre con tres meses de anticipo, cómo presenció una pelea de cuchillos que ella supo que iba a acabar con una herida fatal, cómo miró los niños que pasaban bajo su balcón con las caras que les pertenecerían como adultos, e incluso cómo trató de evitar de enamorarse porque anticipó como la vida de su pretendiente futuro acabaría violentemente.  ¿Los poderes de la claravidencia no tendrían sus recompensas?  No, no es así en el mundo de Irene donde, una rosa de papel en la mano, perfumada con la tristeza, ella dice que era feliz antes de la muerte de su padre  --"si es que existe la felicidad" (157).  A sentirse culpable por o haber provocado o, al menos, no haber hecho lo suficiente para evitar la muerte de sus amados, Irene confesa conmovedoramente cómo en vano anhelaba "la muerte, única depositaria de mis recuerdos" (160).  Una estructura narrativa circular (el cuento empieza con y acaba con las mismísimas palabras) y la llegada de una mujer desconocida (¿la doppelganger de la protagonista?) se complican las cosas: ¿ha muerto Irene al final o está la pobrecita encerrada en una especie de circuito cerrado metafísico sin fin con o sin su doble?  Magistral.  Si Autobiografía de Irene es claramente un cuento superior, ¿cómo debo evaluar el relato largo El impostor?  ¿Hay una nota de supermagistral?  Quizás el mejor (o al menos lo más jugoso) cuento que leí en 2013, El impostor tiene que ver con la visita de un tal Luis Maidana a la estancia Los Cisnes, ambiente gótico (en el mejor sentido) y lúgubre donde se encuentra con otro chico más o menos de la misma edad que se llama Armando Heredia, de quién se dice que es un mozo "medio loco" (98).  Heredia y su visitante se hacen amigos, pero según el diario del narrador Maidana la amistad de los muchachos está acompañada por tal medida de sospecha y de malentendidos que al final el lector se preguntará quién es el loco de verdad.  No quiero decir mucho más acerca del argumento por miedo de arruinar la historia para los demás, pero la relación entre los protagonistas es tan bien trazada en El impostor que lo leí dos veces en seguida para saborearlo de nuevo.  Es un éxito de estilo y de adrenalina y de violencia anticipada, puntuado por declaraciones extrañamente llamativas como "no soñar es como estar muerto" (106), "los animales son los sueños de la naturaleza" (113), y "vagué por la estancia, con la sensación de ser un fantasma que vive entre fantasmas" (119).  Muchachos, lo entiendo.  Cuentazo.

Silvina Ocampo (1903-1993)

Autobiografía de Irene aparece en las páginas 81-165 de los
Cuentos completos I de Silvina Ocampo (Buenos Aires: Emecé Editores, 1999).

miércoles, 1 de enero de 2014

2666 Group Read

As some of you already know, I'll be hosting a year-long niche reading event under the unfortunately unwieldy moniker of the 2014 Caravana de recuerdos Ibero-American Readalong, which was designed to begin with Bolaño and end with Cervantes--two of my favorite authors, both practically begging for long overdue rereads.  While the original introductory post and sign-up details can be found here, the general idea is to tempt you into reading a quality Ibero-American work of literature with me via one of two user-friendly methods: 1) a series of structured monthly group reads with other readers, where you can drop in and out as often or as little as you like; or 2) for more interactive types, the proposal of an interesting work of your choice (i.e. novel, poem, short story, whatever) that you'll challenge me to read together with you at some point in time.  For the purposes of the event, "Ibero-American" will be defined as having to do with any/all literature ever produced on the Iberian Peninsula (i.e. originally composed in Arabic, Basque, Hebrew, Latin or any of the Romance languages) as well as any/all literature from the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking countries in the Americas.  The fine print: since I don't expect to have many takers for this second "challenge" option, I've decided to open this up to works from France and Italy if any of you would care to read a work from either of those countries with me.  But back to Bolaño and the 2666 group read.  I first read 2666 (Spain/Chile, 2004) as part of a really rewarding group read hosted by Claire of kiss a cloud and Steph of Steph & Tony Investigate! that was held over the course of five months way back in 2009.  While I don't imagine I'll have the fortune to be surrounded by as many special readers as I was that last time, I'd love to reread the book with you should you be interested in reading it--or rereading it--with me.  To help whet your appetite, here's a page of 2666 and other Bolaño reviews that Rise of Bifurcaria bifurcata put together during his 2011 Roberto Bolaño Reading Challenge--another good time.  The plan here is to read and post on parts 1-3 of 2666 (up through "La parte de Fate" or "The Part About Fate") during the last three days in January and parts 4-5 of the novel (starting with "La parte de los crímenes" or "The Part About the Crimes") during the last three days in February.  I'll list other group read participants below if there are any (right now there's only one "maybe"), but by all means feel free to get in touch if you have any questions.  Before I go, here's a rundown of the other Ibero-American Readalong choices for the rest of the year: Ibn Hazm de Córdoba's Tawq al-Hamamah [Spanish: El collar de la paloma; English: The Ring of the Dove] (Al-Andalus, February); José Saramago's O Ano da Morte de Ricardo Reis [The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis] (Portugal, March); the Edith Grossman-translated The Golden Age: Poems of the Spanish Renaissance (Spain and New Spain, April); Augusto Roa Bastos' Yo el Supremo [I, the Supreme] (Paraguay, May); Tirso de Molina's El burlador de Sevilla [The Trickster of Seville] (Spain, June); Guillermo Cabrera Infante's Tres tristes tigres [Three Trapped Tigers] (Cuba, July--held in conjunction with the the Kingdom of Redonda Read-along hosted by Richard of Shea's Zibaldone); José Hernández's Martín Fierro [The Gaucho Martín Fierro] (Argentina, August); Macedonio Fernández's Museo de la novela de la Eterna [The Museum of Eterna's Novel (The First Good Novel)] (Argentina, September); Nicanor Parra's Poemas y antipoemas [Poems and Antipoems] (Chile, October); Miguel de Cervantes' Don Quijote de la Mancha [Don Quixote] (Spain, November & December); and Juan Rulfo's El Llano en llamas [The Plain in Flames and/or The Burning Plain and Other Stories] (Mexico, December).

Other 2666 Readers