miércoles, 31 de agosto de 2016

La amortajada

La amortajada (Editorial Andrés Bello, 1996)
por María Luisa Bombal
Argentina, 1938

Ana María, como la narradora en La última niebla de Bombal, es una esposa infeliz.  "Oh, la tortura del primer amor, de la primera desilusión!  ¡Cuando se lucha con el pasado, en lugar de olvidarlo!" ella grita -en un modo de hablar- dentro de un monólogo interior telenovelesco (107).  A diferencia de la otra narradora, Ana María, "la amortajada" del título, está muerta.  Con la ayuda de otro/a narrador/a en tercera persona, la novelita sigue los pensamientos y remordimientos del personaje mientras que ella espera el cortejo fúnebre que la llevará a la cripta familiar.  Qué gótico, ¿no?  Además del truco con la narradora muerta, Bombal trabaja duro para mantener el interés del lector.  Aunque el relato tiene un lado "filosófico" (pregunta: "¿Era preciso morir para saber ciertas cosas?" [116]), lo que me gustaba más era el ambiente inquietante de una obra que habla de "las dulces culebras" de la muerte (160) y versa sobre la tumba con tal extrañeza extravagante y/o feminista como esto (166):

Hay pobres mujeres enterradas, perdidas en cementerios inmensos como ciudades -y horror- hasta con calles asfaltadas.  Y en los lechos de ciertos ríos de aguas negras las hay suicidas que las corrientes incesantemente golpean, roen, desfiguran y golpean.  Y hay niñas, recién sepultas, a quienes deudos inquietos por encontrar, a su vez, espacio libre, en una cripta estrecha y sombría, reducen y reducen deseosos casi hasta de borrarlas del mundo de los huesos.  Y hay también jóvenes adúlteras que imprudentes citas atraen a barrios apartados y que un anónimo hace sorprender y recostar de un balazo sobre el pecho del amante, y cuyos cuerpos, profanados por las autopsias, se abandonan, días y días, a la infamia de la morgue.
¡Oh, Dios mío, insensatos hay que dicen que una vez muertos no debe preocuparnos nuestro cuerpo!

La amortajada, publicada por primera vez en 1938 por Editorial Sur en Buenos Aires, se puede encontrar en las páginas 96-176 de las Obras completas de la chilena Bombal (1910-1980, arriba) compilada por Lucía Guerra (Santiago de Chile: Editorial André Bello, 1996).

Las genealogías

Las genealogías (Editorial Pre-Textos, 2006)
by Margo Glantz
Mexico, 1981 & 1997

Mi fuerte nunca ha sido la geografía, siempre confundo los ríos del norte con los del sur y sobre todo los que se salen de cauce americano y eso que mi madre se llama Elizabeth Mijáilovna Shapiro y mi padre Jacob Osherovich Glantz, en privado, y para sus amigos Lucia y Nucia o Yánkl y Lúcinka, a veces Yasha o Luci y en Rusia, él, Ben Osher, y mamá, Liza.  Esta constatación (y la pronunciación adecuada de los nombres, cosa que casi nunca ocurre) me hacen sentir personaje de Dostoievski y entender algo de mis contradicciones, por aquello del alma rusa encimada al alma mexicana.

[Geography has never been my strong suit. I always confuse the rivers in the north with those in the south and above all those originating in American waters and this even though my mother's name is Elizabeth Mijáilovna Shapiro and my father's name is Jacob Osherovich Glantz--in private--and Lucia and Nucia or Yánkl and Lúcinka or sometimes Yasha or Luci to their friends and, in Russia, he's Ben Osher and mom's Liza.  This state of affairs (and the appropriate pronunciation of names, something which almost never happens) makes me feel like a Dostoyevsky character and understand something of my contradictions as far as the Russian soul heaped on top of the Mexican soul goes.]
(Las genealogías, 61)

What was it like for Russian and Ukrainian Jews to emigrate to Catholic Mexico midway through the 1920s?  Closer to home, what was it like for their Mexican-born children to grow up nostalgic for a land they never knew except as filtered through secondhand memories in faraway Mexico City?  These are just two of the questions at the heart of Margo Glantz's charming, vignette-driven Las genealogías, a book I read as autobiography/family history but a book translated into English as The Family Tree: An Illustrated Novel (novel?!?) and a book fellow Mexican writer Álvaro Enrigue has hailed as "a major influence on Mexican literature during the second half of the 20th century": the proof of which is that "its violent mixing of narrative genres--autobiography, chronicle, novel, short story--became a common literary form" due to Glantz's innovations.  Alleged Pitol-like genre mashing notwithstanding, one of the things I enjoyed most about Glantz's, ahem, nonfiction novel is the warm authorial voice that emerges from out of the shadows of all the family histories.  Whether recounting the hate crime that almost saw her Trotsky-lookalike father stoned to death by an antisemitic mob in 1939--"No llores, judío, vengo a salvarte" ["Don't cry, Jew, I'm here to save you"], blandly said the fire chief who came to his rescue (115)--or meditating on the massive box office appeal of Yiddish theater in relation to the smallish size of Mexico City's Jewish community circa 1925-1960--"¿Qué mueve a los judíos del exilio a ver y cultivar esas obras de teatro?  ¿No será una nostalgia de un territorio que nunca les ha pertenicido, pero que sin embargo en algo fue suyo?" ["What drives Jews of the diaspora to watch and cultivate these works of theater?  Might it not be a longing for a land which has never belonged to them but which was nonetheless theirs in some part?"] (125)-- or paying tribute to her poet father, a one-time drinking buddy of Isaac Babel's in pre-Red Cavalry Odessa, who versified in Ukrainian, in Russian, in Yiddish and in Spanish--"Todo emigrante que viene a América se siente Colón y si viene a México quiere ser Cortés. Mi padre prefirió a Colón y, como Carpentier, escribió un poema épico lírico sobre el navegante genovés" ["Every emigrant who comes to America feels like Columbus and if he comes to Mexico wants to be Cortés.  My father preferred Columbus and, like Carpentier, wrote a lyrical epic poem about the Genoese navigator"] (130)--Glantz is delightful company for this flip through her family photo album (literal and otherwise, this "novel" is chock full of pix of the Glantz familia through the ages).  A total treat.

Margo Glantz

domingo, 21 de agosto de 2016

Spanish Lit Month(s) 2016: 8/14-8/20 Links

Juan Marsé and friend

As our Spanish Lit Month(s) 2016 readers continue huffing and puffing desperate to lunge for that mixed metaphor of a finish line coming up at the end of the month, I just wanted to thank Stu for letting me co-host the event with him for another year.  Thanks, too, to all of you who have participated either by contributing reviews of your own or commenting on the reviews on blogs and Twitter.  It's been fun.  Anyway, here's the latest round of links for your reading enjoyment.  ¡Hasta pronto!

John, The Modern Novel

Julianne Pachico, Never Stop Reading

Richard, Caravana de recuerdos

Stu, Winstonsdad's Blog
Wakolda by Lucía Puenzo

Tony Messenger, Messengers Booker (and more)
Natural Histories by Guadalupe Nettel
Umami by Laia Jufresa

Guadalupe Nettel

sábado, 20 de agosto de 2016

La oscura historia de la prima Montse

La oscura historia de la prima Montse (Seix Barral, 1970)
by Juan Marsé
Spain, 1970

The Barcelona-born Juan Marsé, just in case you were wondering about that eyesore of a vintage segunda edición cover above, has written two of my favorite Spanish-language novels ever in 1966's Últimas tardes con Teresa and 1973's Si te dicen que caí--both of which are calling my name for a reread.  Roberto Bolaño would have understood the fanboydom, advising those who hadn't yet read Últimas tardes con Teresa to go out to a bookstore and buy it "ahora mismo" ["right now"] and gushing that Marsé was "un escritor excepcional" ["an exceptional writer"].*  I, naturally, concur.  While 1970's La oscura historia de la prima Montse [The Dark History of Cousin Montse, still unavailable in English nearly 50 years after its appearance in España], isn't anywhere near as appealing as its two bookish siblings, calling it "Marsé lite" or the ugly stepsister of the family wouldn't exactly do justice to it either.  The somewhat melodramatic plot, adroitly narrated in the first, second and third person both in the novel's late 1960s present and in flashback in 1959 when a mysterious "escándalo" ["scandal"] leads to young Montserrat Claramunt's social ruin (9), ultimately offers much less of a payoff than the über-rewarding manner in which it's delivered.  Still, the particulars of the story--from principal narrator Paco J. Bodegas' adulterous love affair with his cousin Nuria Claramunt and their often conflicting memories of the root cause of the disgrace that Nuria's younger sister Montse suffered when she tried to befriend an ex-con as part of her Catholic charity work and on to a brutal multi-chapter comic setpiece in which various members of the clergy attempt to exact public confessions out of students and workers during a weekend come to Jesus retreat--offer plenty of opportunities for both Marsé and his narrators to zoom in on the hypocrisy and the decay behind the façade of the outwardly Europeanizing but inwardly anti-immigrant, oppressively patriarchal, and pro-conformism Catalan bourgeoisie of the time as well as, on a related note, the merits of Montse's tragic and apparently undeserved Flaubertian comeuppance.  I look forward to reading more Marsé soon.

*The Bolaño quotes are from pages 230-231 of his essay "Pregón de Blanes" ["Town Crier of Blanes"] from Entre paréntesis [Between Parentheses] (Barcelona: Anagrama, 2004, 229-234).

Juan Marsé, circa 1970

jueves, 18 de agosto de 2016

Spanish Lit Month(s) 2016: 8/7-8/13 Links

There are only two weeks left in Spanish Lit Month(s) 2016 starting today, which is probably just as well considering these weekly round-up posts are getting harder and harder for your erratic blogger to post on time even while they are diminishing in the size of the contributions.  Sigh.  That being said, I'm happy to see that there are already some new reviews out this week so far and four to bring your attention to from last week.  Cheers!

Grant, 1streading's Blog
Mildew by Paulette Jonguitud

Richard, Caravana de recuerdos
Nombre falso by Ricardo Piglia

Tony, Tony's Reading List
Death in Spring by Mercè Rodoreda

sábado, 13 de agosto de 2016

Nombre falso

Nombre falso (Debolsillo, 2014)
by Ricardo Piglia
Argentina, 1975

5 short stories + 1 novella from the Argentine writer/critic whom Roberto Bolaño once memorably lampooned as the St. Paul to Roberto Arlt's Jesus Christ.  Of the short stories, I'm most unabashedly evangelistic about "El Laucha Benítez cantaba boleros" ["Mousy Benítez Sang Boleros"] and "La loca y el relato del crimen" ["The Madwoman and the Story of the Crime"]--the former a sordid tale about an ex-heavyweight boxer reduced to eking out a living as "El Vikingo" ["The Viking"] in a traveling lucha libre troupe and the latter a sordid tale about a madwoman who appears to have witnessed the slaying of a prostitute outside a dancing-for-hire cabaret.  The novella Nombre falso [Assumed Name; original title: Homenaje a Roberto Arlt or Homage to Roberto Arlt]--a great hoax which in its day was passed off as the critical edition of a just recently discovered/previously unpublished Arlt work but is in large part supposedly "borrowed" from the Spanish translation of Leonid Andreyev's The Dark--is definitely the cherry on the top of this hot fudge sundae of noirish, metafictional underhandedness, though.  While both "El Laucha Benítez cantaba boleros" y "La loca y el relato del crimen" inhabit a recognizably post-Arltian spiritual landscape--the latter even includes an inside joke of a description about a reporter whose "concentrado y un poco metafísico" ["concentrated and somewhat metaphysical"] melancholy is said to resemble that of Roberto Arlt's characters (79)--the scene of the crime in Nombre falso shifts from Arlt's so-called "zona de la angustia" ["anguish zone"] to the mean streets of the text itself.  For in what's billed as a homage to Roberto Arlt but is also a bottle smashing celebration of the joys of plagiarism, the supporting documentation for Piglia's spurious critical edition includes dialogue from "Arlt" ("¿Qué es robar un banco comparado con fundarlo?" ["What is robbing a bank compared with founding one?"]) mischievously lifted from  Bertolt Brecht (111); notes to a rough draft from Arlt which actually are cribbed from Piglia's "La loca y el relato del crimen" (115-116); and an entirely convincing fabricated interview with a real life friend of Arlt's who maintains that Arlt's best work ever was the short story "Escritor fracasado" ["Failed Writer"]: "Eso es lo mejor que Roberto Arlt escribió en toda su vida.  La historia de un tipo que no puede escribir nada original, que roba sin darse cuenta: así son todos los escritores en este país, así es la literatura acá.  Todo falso, falsificaciones de falsificaciones" ["That's the best thing that Roberto Arlt wrote in all his life.  The story of a guy who couldn't write anything original, who robs without realizing it: all the writers in this country are like that, that's what literature is here.  All fake, falsifications of falsifications"] (140).  Slick.

Ricardo Piglia

lunes, 8 de agosto de 2016

Spanish Lit Month(s) 2016: 7/31-8/6 Links

César Aira

Thanks to all the diehard Spanish Lit Monthers who kept the momentum going in the first of our August "overtime" weeks this year.  I may even join you with a SLM post or two later this week if I can just get over the lazy bug.  Until then, here's the latest round of links for your reading delectation.  Enjoy!

Joe, roughghosts

John, The Modern Novel
Benzina (Gasoline) by Quim Monzó

 Nicole, bibliographing
(On Your Face Tomorrow and The Infatuations by Javier Marías [from June])
 (On Your Face Tomorrow by Javier Marías)

Pat, South of Paris Books
None So Blind by J.Á. González Sainz
Une femme suspendue by Lorenzo Silva

Rise, in lieu of a field guide
Unforeseen shadows: Nínay by Pedro Paterno

Séamus, Vapour Trails

Stu, Winstonsdad's Blog
On the Edge by Rafael Chirbes

Tony Messenger, Messengers Booker (and more)
Custody of the Eyes by Diamela Eltit

Javier Marías