domingo, 2 de septiembre de 2018

Spanish and Portuguese Lit Months 2018: 8/26-8/31 Links

With Spanish and Portuguese Lit Months 2018 now over, I'd like to thank everybody who helped make it happen this year and to thank Stu for letting me co-host it with him again.  I had a lot of fun and hope you all found something of interest--a new blog, a great book, whatever--along the way as well.  Anyway, here's the last week's worth of links generated by the event.  On a related note, I'll be running a month-long version of the Argentinean Literature of Doom in December this year if anybody cares to join me for some end of the year gnashing of teeth.  Stay tuned for further details eventually and/or check out last year's welcome post here if you have no idea what I'm talking about.  Cheers.

Agnese, Beyond the Epilogue
The Iliac Crest by Cristina Rivera Garza

David Hebblethwaite, David's Book World
Fish Soup by Margarita García Robayo

Joseph Screiber, roughghosts

Juliana Brina, the [blank] garden
Hilda Hilst (profile and bibliography)
Because there is desire within me, everything glimmers (poems by Hilda Hilst)

lizzysiddal, Lizzy's Literary Life
#edbookfest 2018: Teresa Solana

Paul, By the Firelight
Largo noviembre de Madrid (Madrid's Long November) by Juan Edwardo Zúñiga

Richard, Caravana de recuerdos
"Mimoso" by Silvina Ocampo

Scott, seraillon

viernes, 31 de agosto de 2018


by Silvina Ocampo
Argentina, 1959

Alfajores Havanna or Cachafaz?*  Whatever, it's now time for the dessert & coffee portion of Spanish and Portuguese Lit Months 2018 at long last!  "Mimoso" ["Affectionate"], a four page-long morsel from "Silvina is a Borges" Ocampo's 1959 La furia which brings unwanted attention to that previously innocent term "animal lover," is the giddily effed-up taste treat in question--a morally dubious tale about a woman who so loves her dog Mimoso that she decides to embalm him after his passing only to eventually arouse the suspicions of her neighbors.  Ocampo's peculiar sense of humor is clearly the dulce de leche filling of our alfajor argentino with the cookie-like descriptions of 1) the pet owner Mercedes--"Con su tejido en la mano esperaba como Penélope, tejiendo, la llegada del perro embalsado" ["With her fabric in hand, she awaited the arrival of the embalmed dog like Penelope, weaving away"]; 2) the now glass-eyed Mimoso himself--"Nunca había parecido de mejor salud...lo único que le faltaba era hablar" ["He had never seemed in better health...the only thing that was lacking was that he couldn't talk"]; 3) and in particular Mercedes' reaction to the new and improved, "bien peinado y lustroso" ["well-groomed and shiny"] post-embalming Mimoso--"Ese perro muerto la acompañaría como la había acompañado el mismo perro vivo, la defendería de los ladrones y de la soledad.  Le acarició la cabeza con la punta de los dedos y cuando creyó que el marido no la miraba, le dio un beso furtivo" ["That dead dog would accompany her just as the same dog had done in life, he'd defend her from thieves and loneliness.  She stroked his head with the tips of her fingers, and when she thought her husband wasn't looking, she gave Mimoso a furtive kiss"]--all leading to uncomfortable laughter.  To help wash this all down, I will avoid all mention of the gross-out ending and will instead propose a lágrima** for all #Spanishandportugueselitmonths readers who are so inclined in honor of one Jorge Luis Borges' almost tearful response to this story: "Borges lo odiaba" ["Borges hated it"], Mariana Enriquez writes in her recent must read Ocampo bio, "siempre le pedía a Silvina que no lo incluyera en sus recopilaciones" ["he would always ask Silvina to leave it out of her anthologies"].  Mmm, alfajores.

*The correct answer, of course, is "both!"
**If curious, please see "A Buenos Aires Coffee Guide (with pictures)" for a handy primer.  Nature of primer: thirst-inducing.

"Mimoso" appears on pages 197-200 of Silvina Ocampo's
Cuentos completos I (Buenos Aires: Emecé Editores, 1999).  Author photo: Sara Facio.

domingo, 26 de agosto de 2018

Spanish and Portuguese Lit Months 2018: 8/19-8/25 Links

Juan Carlos Onetti

Grant, 1streading's Blog
Older Brother by Daniel Mella

Juliana, the [blank] graden
Ana Cristina César (profile and bibliography)
To confront desire (poems by Ana Cristina César)
Victor Heringer (profile and bibliography)
The first tear opened up that day (on O amor dos homens avulsos by Victor Heringer)
Ricardo Domeneck (profile and bibliography)
May it sting me until it extinguishes me (poems by Ricardo Domeneck)

Richard, Caravana de recuerdos
"Felisberto, el 'Naïf'" by Juan Carlos Onetti

Rise, in lieu of a field guide
"The Superstitious Ethics of the Reader" by Jorge Luis Borges

viernes, 24 de agosto de 2018

Felisberto, el "naïf"

"Felisberto, el 'naïf'"
by Juan Carlos Onetti
Spain, 1975

Onetti's book talk--I hesitate to call it criticism--almost always strikes me as hurried but loaded with insight with the caveat that "loaded with insight" sometimes means accompanied by the perfect anecdote.  Here's a good example of one such piece I've been wanting to share for a while. "Felisberto Hernández fue uno de los más importantes escritores de su país" ["Felisberto Hernández was one of the most important writers in his country"], he begins.  "Muy poco conocido en España --según estoy comprobando--.  Esto no debe preocupar, cuanto la ignorancia de su obra es también comprobable en el Uruguay" ["Hardly known in Spain--as I'm finding out.  This needn't concern us insofar as the ignorance of his work is also ascertainable in Uruguay"].  After this set-up, Onetti suggests that "factores políticos" ["political factors"] might have had something to do with his fellow Uruguayan's lack of celebrity because "Felisberto --siempre se le llamó así-- era conservador, hombre de extrema derecha" ["Felisberto--as he was always called--was a conservative, a man of the far right"] taken to arguing out loud about politics in gatherings during World War II and its aftermath. Although Onetti is quick to make clear that it's Felisberto the writer rather than "Felisberto político" ["political Felisberto"] who interests us here, he adds that an anecdote or two which will help us to understand Felisberto better or to reassess him are on the other hand fair game.  Unsurprisingly, this is where things start to get good.  Onetti reveals that he first met Felisberto early on at a time when his countryman was so lacking in confidence about the "pequeños libros" ["little books"] that he'd published that he told Onetti he couldn't even think up new themes to pursue.  "En aquellos tiempos" ["In those days"], Onetti explains, "Felisberto se ganaba la vida golpeando pianos en ciudades o pueblos del interior de la república, acompañando a un recitador de poemas.  Es fácil imaginar sus públicos" ["Felisberto earned a living thumping pianos in the cities and small towns of Uruguay's interior, accompanying a reciter of poems.  It's easy to imagine their audiences"].  Given the musical subject matter of so much of Felisberto's output, Onetti then makes the rather startling claim that he suggested that Felisberto's piano tours through Uruguay's backwaters might make a good source of material, something which the piano man thanked him for but seemed undecided about, as if he weren't sure that Onetti wasn't putting him on or blowing him off.  Fast forwarding a bit, Onetti then recalls his first encounter with Felisberto the writer when, due to a friendship with one of the author's family members, he was able to get his hands on one of Felisberto's hard to find earliest books, 1931's La envenenada: "Digo libro generosamente: había sido impreso en alguno de los agujeros donde Felisberto pulsaba pianos que ya venían desafinados desde su origen.  El papel era el que se usa para la venta de fideos; la impresión, tipográfica, estaba lista para ganar cualquier curso de fe de erratas; el cosido había sido hecho con recortes de alambrado.  Pero el libro, apenas un cuento, me deslumbró" ["I say book generously: it had been printed in one of the holes where Felisberto played pianos that were permanently out of tune.  The paper was the kind that was used to sell pasta in; the printing was fit to win a typo contest; the binding had been stitched with pieces of wire.  But the book, barely a short story, amazed me"].  Why?  "Porque el autor no se parecía a nadie que yo conociera... Y era díficil --e inútil-- encontrar allí lo que llamamos literatura, estilo o técnica" ["Because the author didn't seem like anyone else I knew... And it was difficult--and useless--to find what we'd call literature, style or technique there"].  In much of what follows, Onetti traces his subject's later trajectory in pursuit of the idea that "Felisberto, sabiéndolo o no, perseguía el malentendido llamado fama" ["Felisberto, knowingly or not, was pursuing the misunderstanding called fame"].  Contrasting the quality of 1942's Por los tiempos de Clemente Calling [Around the Time of Clemente Calling] with 1960's La casa inundada [The Flooded House], Onetti casts the latter as a stylistically inferior example of the author's deliberate attempt to "conservar la pureza, la sinceridad de sus primeros libros" ["preserve the purity, the sincerity of his first books"] given the so-called "naïfismo" ["naiveté-ism"] for which he'd become known among a small but vocal circle of friends and admirers.  Onetti ends his appreciation with an unhurried and unexpectedy corrosive critical double whammy first saying that his personal admiration for Felisberto's work on balance still remains strong "pese a los avatares mencionados" ["in spite of the ups and downs mentioned"] and then attributing a couple of mischievous references to Felisberto's late life morbid obesity and string of broken marriages as a "homenaje al malhumor de Sainte-Beuve, que estropeaba cada lunes el apetito de los Goncourt y sostenía que era imposible hacer buena crítica sin conocer la vida íntima de cada víctima" ["homage to the ill humor of Sainte-Beuve, who ruined the Goncourt brothers' appetites each Monday and maintained that it was impossible to give a good review without knowing the private life of each victim"].  Ouch!

Felisberto Hernández (1902-1964, top) & Juan Carlos Onetti (1909-1994, here pictured in Madrid in 1975 in a photo by Dolly Onetti, bottom)
"Felisberto, el 'naïf'" can be found on pp. 532-535 of Onetti's Obras Completas III.  Cuentos, artículos y miscelánea (Barcelona: Galaxia Gutenberg, 2009).

domingo, 19 de agosto de 2018

Spanish and Portuguese Lit Months 2018: 8/12-8/18 Links

Agnese, Beyond the Epilogue
Comemadre by Roque Larraquy
Kingdom Cons by Yuri Herrera

John, The Modern Novel
Bilbao-New York-Bilbao by Kirmen Uribe
La prueba (The Proof) by César Aira

Juliana Brina, the [blank] garden
Cora Coralina (profile and bibliography)
The mere life of the obscure (poems by Cora Coralina)
Alejandra Pizarnik (profile and bibliography)
Very soon I will send you something, a few birds of fire (on Nueva correspondencia Pizarnik by Alejandra Pizarnik edited by Ivonne Bordelois and Cristina Piña)

Pat, South of Paris Books
The Night of the Singing Ladies by Lídia Jorge

Richard, Caravana de recuerdos
La hermana menor.  Un retrato de Silvina Ocampo by Mariana Enriquez

Rise, in lieu of a field guide
Jaime Gil de Biedma's ambiguous poetry (on Jaime Gil de Biedma in the Phillipines: Prose and Poetry/Jaime Gil de Biedman en Filipinas: prosa y poesía)

sábado, 18 de agosto de 2018

La hermana menor. Un retrato de Silvina Ocampo

La hermana menor.  Un retrato de Silvina Ocampo (Anagrama ebook, 2018)
by Mariana Enriquez
Argentina, 2014

An absolutely stupendous profile of Silvina Ocampo--during her lifetime (1903-1993), a critically acclaimed but commercially unsuccessful cipher famous for being the little sister of Victoria Ocampo, the wife of Adolfo Bioy Casares, the close friend of Jorge Luis Borges, and a person whom Mariana Enriquez refers to as  "una de las mujeres más ricas y extravagantes de la Argentina" ["one of the richest and most eccentric women in Argentina"] and "una de las escritoras más talentosas y extrañas de la literatura en español" ["one of the strangest and most talented writers in Spanish-language literature"].  Enriquez, who in an interview just out a few days ago admits that she's more an admirer of Ocampo's than a true fan ["es una escritora a la que admiraba más que ser fan"], still went out and did the fan-like dirty work of interviewing a number of Ocampo's surviving acquaintances--many of whom have since passed away.  She then paired those first-person testimonies with archival selections from the voluminous diaries, memoirs and other biographical material having to do with Ocampo and Bioy Casares that are already out there, resulting in a splendid read.  You want mostly good-natured literary gossip?  Multiple people attest to how the loud joking and outbursts of laughter from Bioy and his pal Borges audible from the next room would prompt Ocampo to ask dinner guests at her Buenos Aires home: "¿De qué se reirán esos dos idiotas?" ["What are those two idiots laughing about?"].  Prefer scandal?  Ocampo's rumored lesbianism or bisexuality and in particular the alleged love affairs between her and Alejandra Pizarnik and even her and Bioy Casares' mother receive some serious attention.  Some well-placed literary criticism more your cup of tea?  Enriquez, discussing the impact of the spoken word on many of the tales from 1959's La furia, notes the artistic advance in which "Silvina Ocampo, a diferencia de Borges y Bioy, y cerca de Cortázar y Manuel Puig, incorporaba a sus cuentos el habla coloquial rioplatense" ["Silvina Ocampo, unlike Borges and Bioy and more like Cortázar and Manuel Puig, incorporated colloquial Río de la Plata speech patterns into her short stories"].  On that note, I'll close by mentioning that La hermana menor also asks whether Ocampo, now a canonical writer, was undeservedly overshadowed by her two more famous male peers in her lifetime.  Her writer friend J.R. Wilcock, a fan of both Ocampo's and a really rabid fan of Borges', gave this answer at one point in time: "Silvina es un Borges, piensa y escribe como un hombre, es uno de los mejores escritores de la Argentina" ["Silvina is a Borges, she thinks and writes like a man, she's one of the best writers in Argentina"].  And Ernesto Schoo, a novelist and newspaper critic acquaintance of Ocampo's and one of the many people interviewed by Enriquez for this work, more politically correctly adds this: "Era un ser rarísimo y con una literatura que no se parece a nadie.  Muchos dicen: 'Es Borges con falda.'  Para mí es más interesante que Borges porque tiene pasión, tiene amor.  Borges es muy cerebral" ["She was a super odd person with a literature that didn't resemble anyone else's.  Many people say 'it’s Borges in a skirt.'  For me, it’s more interesting than Borges because it has passion, it has love.  Borges is very cerebral"].  In that recent interview, Enriquez says that she’d love to do a similar piece on Nick Cave someday.  I’d gladly read that book too.

Mariana Enriquez

domingo, 12 de agosto de 2018

Spanish and Portuguese Lit Months 2018: 8/5-8/11 Links

Norah Lange

Bellezza, Dolce Bellezza
"For I myself am my own fever and pain."  Fever and Spear by Javier Marías (Spanish Lit Month 2018).

David, David's Book World
I Didn't Talk by Beatriz Bracher

Grant, 1streading's Blog
Sacred Cow by Diamela Eltit

John, The Modern Novel
Patria (Homeland) by Fernando Aramburu

Juliana Brina, the [blank] garden
Laura Liuzzi (profile and bibliography)
Just the rain and the word rain (poems by Laura Liuzzi)
Cutting and repetition (on um teste de resistores by Marília Garcia)
Adelaide Ivánova (profile and bibliography)
Felipa set the caravaels on fire (poems by Adelaide Ivánova)

Michael Kitto, Knowledge Lost
La Bastarda by Trifonia Melibea Obono

Paul, By the Firelight
Cinco horas con Mario (Five Hours with Mario) by Miguel Delibes

Richard, Caravana de recuerdos
Personas en la sala by Norah Lange

Stu, Winstonsdad's Blog
The Neighborhood by Mario Vargas Llosa

sábado, 11 de agosto de 2018

La boda de Hitler y María Antonieta en el infierno

La boda de Hitler y María Antonieta en el infierno [Le nozze di Hitler e Maria Antonietta nell'inferno] (Emecé, 2003)
by J.R. Wilcock & F. Fantasia [translated from the Italian by Ernesto Montequin]
Italy, 1985

A total ringer for inclusion in the Spanish and Portuguese Lit Months 2018 line-up given that the Argentina-born J.R. Wilcock (1919-1978) abandoned Spanish as his writing language after he traded in the land of Borges for the land of Pasolini in the year of our Lord 1957, La boda de Hitler y María Antonieta en el infierno [The Wedding of Hitler and Marie Antoinette in Hell] is, on the other hand, about as ridiculous and as farcical as you might expect from something with such a festive title and snazzy diabolical cover art.  Even if its own authors concede that it's perhaps "un texto que conviene regalar en vez de leer" ["a text that's better suited to give away than to read"] (119), don't heed that advice until you've savored the bad jokes about Marie Antoinette's wedding-threatening crush on Garibaldi ("Está loca por él, aunque se dejaría cortar de nuevo la cabeza antes que admitirlo" ["She's crazy about him even though she'd let her head be cut off again before she'd admit it"]) (11), listened in on Cagliostro's quackish confession to Seneca ("El estudio de la delincuencia y del ocultismo son los únicos pasatiempos dignos para un hombre de cierto gusto" ["The study of crime and occultism is the only worthy hobby for a man of refined taste"]) (23), overheard the horndog in hell act of piacere-seeking Gabriele D'Annunzio: "¡Ah, las diablesas...qué hembras excitantes!" ["Ah, the she-devils...what exciting females!"] (77).  In the afterword, one Du Garbandier--who I've since learned is a character borrowed from Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman--pays tribute to Wilcock's career as a paid fake critic with a doctored quote from that very same Flann O'Brien novel: "La belleza de la lectura de una página de La boda de Hitler y María Antonieta en el infierno reside en el hecho de que inevitablemente conduce al lector a la feliz convicción de que él no es, de todos los imbéciles, el más grande" ["The beauty of reading one page of The Wedding of Hitler and Marie Antoinette in Hell lies in the fact that the reader is inevitably led to the conclusion that he, of all idiots, isn't the biggest one of all"] (117).  Word.

J.R. Wilcock and friend

martes, 7 de agosto de 2018

Personas en la sala

Personas en la sala (Ediciones Barataria, 2011)
por Norah Lange
La Argentina, 1950

Personas en la sala, una especie de sueño febril supuestamente basado en el retrato de las hermanas Brontë pintado por su hermano Branwell en 1834, es una novela rara e inquietante, por no decir fascinante.  La narradora, una chica de diecisiete años en el momento de los eventos narrados, pasa casi todo su tiempo vigilando a la casa de enfrente en su calle de una zona tranquila de Belgrano, o espiando a o imaginando lo que pasa con los tres rostros borrosos visibles detrás de las ventanas de la casa vecina.  Un día, ella y las tres hermanas aisladas se conocen.  ¿Son éstas tres solteras inofensivas o "son tres criminales" o "tres aventureras" como especula la chica con la gran imaginación (31 & 50)?  ¿Realmente existen las tres o es la narradora mentalmente enferma como ese chico en El impostor de Silvina O'Campo?  ¿O, en su lugar, es el relato un homenaje simbólico al impulso creativo con la narradora jugando el papel del artista que tiene el poder de la vida y la muerte sobre los personajes del cuadro?  Aunque es difícil decir con certeza con una obra tan hermética, estoy a favor de esta última hipótesis.  No olviden que Branwell Brontë, como la narradora, tenía exactamente diecisiete años cuando pintó el retrato de sus hermanas y que es su rostro borroso y fantasmal, reemplazado por un pilar blanco, que efectivamente desapareció de su propio cuadro.  En todo caso, Lange se destaca por haber escrito un texto abierto y estilísticamente desestabilizador en el que las declaraciones de la narradora ("¡Están muertas!  ¡Están muertas!  ¡Yo las vi muertas!" [116]), las imagenes de pesadilla de un caballo muerto y algunas reflexiones morbosas sobre "escuchar venas abiertas" o suicidarse con veronal conviven con momentos de ternura (ojo: momentos ocasionales de ternura) en cuanto a las cuatro personajes que habitan este mundo enclaustrado y claustrófobo.  Un librazo.

Norah Lange (1905-1972)

domingo, 5 de agosto de 2018

Spanish and Portuguese Lit Months 2018: 7/29-8/4 Links

David Hebblethwaite, David's Book World
Death in Spring by Mercè Rodoreda

Grant, 1streading's Blog
The Iliac Crest by Cristina Rivera Garza

John, The Modern Novel

Juliana Brina, the [blank] garden
Lívia Natália (profile and bibliography)
a hunchbacked happiness imitating wings (poems by Lívia Natália)
Marília Garcia (profile and bibliography)
it's a love story and it's about an accident (poems by Marília Garcia)

lizzysiddal, Lizzy's Literary Life
Completist reading for #spanishlitmonth from Teresa Solana and Carmen Posadas (on The Sound of One Hand Killing by Teresa Solanas and The Last Resort by Carmen Posadas)

Michael Kitto, Knowledge Lost
The Neighborhood by Mario Vargas Llosa

Pat, South of Paris Books
Red Dawn by Santiago Roncagliolo

Paul, By the Firelight
The Taker and Other Stories by Rubem Fonseca
La vuelta al día (Around the Day) by Hipólito G. Navarro

Richard, Caravana de recuerdos

Tony Messenger, Messenger's Booker (and more)
Adam Buenosayres by Leopoldo Marechal

miércoles, 1 de agosto de 2018

El librero que no vende libros malos

"El librero que no vende libros malos"
by Hernán Firpo
Argentina, 2017

In honor of the continuation of Spanish and Portuguese Lit Months 2018, which will run through the end of August like it or not, here's a book geek air-kiss for y'all in the form of the first of two pieces on the Buenos Aires book collecting world I hope to bring to your attention before long/before the end of the year/eventually/none of the above.  First up: Hernán Firpo's "El librero que no vende libros malos" ["The Bookseller Who Doesn't Sell Bad Books"], a newspaper article from Clarín dated July 16, 2017 profiling Federico Turrín Sabot, a "dandy que jamás negocia sus cuidadosas tres horas diarias de lectura" ["dandy who never negotiates his precious three hours a day of reading time"], and the La Lengua Absuelta "librería boutique" ["boutique bookshop"] Turrín Sabot runs in the upscale barrio of Belgrano.  Talk eventually turns to César Aira because the shop, with a commercial strategy focusing on contemporary Argentinean authors "opacados por" ["overshadowed by"] the big name likes of Borges, Bioy and Cortázar, specializes in the out of print books and first editions of people like Fogwill, Pizarnik, Aira, etc.--"y no tantos etcéteras" ["and not that many other etceteras"] as the cheeky Firpo puts it.  Among other goodies, La Lengua Absuelta supposedly has everything ever published by Aira, numbered limited edition Osvaldo Lamborghini rarities, shit like that.  Turrín Sabot, alone among Buenos Aires book dealers according to Firpo, is also the only guy in town who could score you a copy of Aira's super rare 1975 debut novel Moreira.*  Not that he seems all that interested in selling it.  "How much would it cost?" Firpo asks.  "Ufff...30 lucas.  Moreira puede salir lo que sale porque no se lo vendo a nadie" ["Ufff...30,000 Argentinean pesos.**  Moreira can go for what it does because I won't sell it to just anybody"] the bookman replies.  "Did you ever sell even one of them?" the reporter asks.  "De seis que tenía, vendí tres, pero es como esperar el novio para la novia..." ["Of six that I had, I sold three, but it's like waiting on the right husband to turn up for the bride..."].  On the other hand, "encontrará El Aleph de Borges en una Primera Edición: 10 mil pesos...  Sucede que nuestra literatura tiene libros difíles de conseguir y el valor se desprende de esa dificultad.  Austria y Hungría (de Néstor Perlongher), Invitación a la masacre (de Marcelo Fox).  Y Moreira está en esa categoría" ["you'll find a first edition of Borges' El Aleph: 10,000 Argentinean pesos...***  It's just a matter of our literature having books that are hard to get a hold of, and the price skyrockets as a result of that difficulty.  (Néstor Perlongher's] Austria and Hungría, (Marcelo Fox's) Invitación a la masacre.  And Moreira also fits into that category"].  Firpo notes that La Lengua Absuelta's web page listed 111 Aira titles at the time of his article, a fact that left the bookseller who doesn't sell bad books both proud and a little testy: "Todos tengo" ["I have them all"] he replied.  "El Aira autor, el nouvellista, el traductor, el ensayista.  ¿Sabías que Aira hizo la traducción de tres libros de Stephen King?...  Pero no quiero que te quedes con la falsa idea de que esta es la librería de Aira.  Esto es mucho más.  Mirá bien--miramos bien--: ¿no es la biblioteca que te gustaría tener en tu casa?" ["Aira as author, Aira as short story writer, Aira as translator, Aira as essayist.  Did you know that Aira did the translation for three Stephen King books?  But I don't want you to leave with the wrong impression that this is the Aira bookstore.  This is much more.  Look closely--let's both look closely: isn't this the library that you'd like to have in your house?"].

*For more on Moreira and the Buenos Aires book world it was conceived in, perhaps my favorite Aira novella to date--the 2007 La Vida Nueva--offers many fond reminiscences that you can read about here.
**About $1,100 U.S. at the current exchange rate
***About $365 U.S.

domingo, 29 de julio de 2018

Spanish and Portuguese Lit Months 2018: 7/22-7/28 Links

Juan Gabriel Vásquez

Ina Cawl, Somali Bookaholic
La Bastarda by Trifonia Melibea Obono

John, The Modern Novel
El tañido de una flauta [The Tune of a Flute] by Sergio Pitol
El cielo árido (The Arid Sky) by Emiliano Monge

Juliana Brina, the [blank] garden
Adélia Prado (profile and bibliography)
the grandest thing in the world is feeling (poems by Adélia Prado)
Henriqueta Lisboa (profile and bibliography)
It is the circle where hearts meet (poems by Henriqueta Lisboa)

Mandy Wight, peakreads
The Shape of the Ruins - La forma de las ruinas by Juan Gabriel Vásquez

Michael Kitto, Knowledge Lost
The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vásquez

Pat, South of Paris Books
The Crucial Moment by Pablo Martín Sanchez

Richard, Caravana de recuerdos
"Porque te vas" by Jeanette
Mi libro enterrado by Mauro Libertella
Los Pazos de Ulloa by Emilia Pardo Bazán

Stu, Winstonsdad's Blog
Map Drawn by a Spy by Guillermo Cabrera Infante

sábado, 28 de julio de 2018

Los Pazos de Ulloa

Los Pazos de Ulloa (Cátedra, 2017)
by Emilia Pardo Bazán
Spain, 1886

Los Pazos de Ulloa, Penguinized as The House of Ulloa and canonized in at least four previous Spanish Lit Month posts here, here, here & here, is probably a textbook example of what a jaded 21st century reader might deem a particularly fine specimen of a rather old-fashioned species of novel.  The action takes place in an environmentally and emotionally inhospitable corner of Galicia where timid, sheltered parish priest Julián discovers just what it means to minister in a godforsaken "país de lobos" ["land of wolves"] (97 & 221) upon being forced to take sides in an increasingly acrimonious marital dispute between his nominal employer, don Pedro Moscoso, and the philandering husband's saintly but abused wife Nucha--this in an era when women were still considered to be the property of their husbands.  A violent resolution to the whole matter is foreshadowed and indeed eventually comes to pass although perhaps not in the exact way anticipated by this particular jaded reader.  Suffice it to say that I look forward to rereading what Tom, Grant and Jacqui had to say about this rich, complex novel.  For my part, I enjoyed its not infrequent leavening of humor (a minor character whose melancholy demeanor, "algún tanto burlesca" ["somewhat burlesque"] sense of dignity and "entristecido" ["mournful"] raised eyebrows earn him a caricaturish comparison to Francisco de Quevedo [251-252]; a fantastic scene where the hunting dog Chonito, "clavando en el capellán una mirada casi humana, llena de desprecio" ["fastening an almost human glare, full of contempt, upon the chaplain"], runs away from Julián and his hunting companion  disappointed at discovering what a horrible shot Julián is [316-317]) as well as Pardo Bazán's character-driven potshots at both the countryside, where local politics are dismissed as "un combate naval en una charca" ["a naval battle in a pond"] (327), and the city of Santiago de Compostela itself, whose proud heritage of "monumentos y ruinas" ["monuments and ruins"] is described by one character as the mere "piedras mohosas" ["moldy stones"] of civilization and its slaves (190).  On that note, for whatever it's worth, I feel compelled to own up to the fact that I read the last 50 pages or so of Los Pazos de Ulloa in a frenzy to see how Pardo Bazán was going to wrap things up and was rewarded with both an unexpected change in narratorial POV and an ending packing as big a brass knuckles wallop as the one delivered by Balzac in Le Père Goriot.  Didn't really see that one coming, fight fans.

Emilia Pardo Bazán (1851-1921) as a young lady

miércoles, 25 de julio de 2018

Mi libro enterrado

Mi libro enterrado (Mansalva, 2013)
por Mauro Libertella
La Argentina, 2013

"A los 23 él tuvo su primera novela y yo tuve su muerte" (45), apunta Mauro Libertella en Mi libro enterrado, una desgarradora memoria sobre la muerte de su padre Héctor.  Libertella padre, un escritor de culto mejor conocido a mí como el compilador de 25 cuentos argentinos del siglo XX (una antología definitiva) y 11 relatos argentinos del siglo xx (una antología alternativa), se murió en 2006, pero en los recuerdos de su hijo "mi viejo" básicamente se convierte en su propio libro póstumo.  A pesar del duelo afrontado por el joven Libertella, Mi libro enterrado es conmovedor sin tratar de serlo y marcado por un tono sencillo estilo "entre amigos".  Me gustó saber algo de la relación entre los dos hombres, por ejemplo, y la agradecí la ternura con la que fue escrito.  En cualquier caso, lo que sigue es típica de la riqueza anecdótica padre-hijo que se encuentra aquí a pesar de sus escasas 77 páginas: "Yo tendría diez años cuando una tarde me llamó a su escritorio y me leyó un cuento", empieza Mauro.  "Era 'Los dos reyes y los dos laberintos', de Borges.  El relato me pareció poderoso y mágico.  No se trataba de la típica escena del padre leyéndole un relato al niño en la cama, de noche, para que termine de caerle el sueño.  Era mi padre leyéndome un cuento de Borges en su escritorio.  Tan simple y tan simbólica es la escena que me parece verosímil atribuirle a esa postal la fundación de nuestro vínculo compartido con la literatura" (41-42).  Precioso.

Mauro Libertella

lunes, 23 de julio de 2018

Porque te vas

Jeanette, "Porque te vas" (1974)

Hoy en mi ventana brilla el sol
Y un corazón se pone triste
Contemplando la ciudad
Porque te vas

Como cada noche desperté
Pensando en ti
Y en mi reloj todas las horas vi pasar
Porque te vas

Todas las promesas de mi amor se irán contigo
Me olvidarás, me olvidarás
Junto a la estación hoy lloraré igual que un niño
Porque te vas, porque te vas, porque te vas, porque te vas

Bajo la penumbra de un farol
Se dormirán
Todas las cosas que quedaron por decir
Se dormirán

Junto a las manillas de un reloj
Todas las horas que quedaron por vivir

Todas las promesas de mi amor se irán contigo
Me olvidarás, me olvidarás
Junto a la estación hoy lloraré igual que un niño
Porque te vas, te vas, te vas, te vas.
(vocals: Jeanette; lyrics: José Luis Perales)

domingo, 22 de julio de 2018

Spanish and Portuguese Lit Months 2018: 7/15-7/21 Links

David Hebblethwaite, David's Book World

Grant, 1streading's Blog
The Return by Dulce Maria Cardoso

JacquiWine, JacquiWine's Journal
Football in Sun and Shadow by Eduardo Galeano

John, The Modern Novel
Sinfonía desde el nuevo mundo [Symphony from the New World] by Germán Espinosa

Juliana Brina, the [blank] garden
Angélica Freitas (profile and bibliography)
A woman with exposed bricks (poems by Angélica Freitas)
Ana Guadalupe (profile and bibliography)
To wrap up this new body of mine (poems by Ana Guadalupe)
Carol Bensimon (profile and bibliography)
All we see is a haze (on Sinuca embaixo d'água by Carol Bensimon)

Michael Kitto, Knowledge Lost
The Seven Madmen by Roberto Arlt
August by Romina Paula
Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli

Pat, South of Paris Books
A Manuscript of Ashes by Antonio Muñoz Molina
A General Theory of Oblivion by José Eduardo Agualusa

Richard, Caravana de recuerdos
Inquietudes sentimentales by Thérèse Wilms Montt
Requiem: A Hallucination by Antonio Tabucchi

Stu, Winstonsdad's Blog
The Taker and Other Stories by Rubem Fonseca
Sergeant Getulio by João Ubaldo Ribeiro
They Won't Take Me Alive by Claribel Alegría

sábado, 21 de julio de 2018

Requiem: A Hallucination

Requiem: A Hallucination [Requiem: uma alucinação] (New Directions, 2002)
by Antonio Tabucchi [translated from the Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa]
Italy, 1991

A lovely, truly lovely morsel for Spanish and Portuguese Lit Months 2018 readers courtesy of "the most Portuguese" of all Italian writers.  During the course of a hot Sunday afternoon and evening in Lisbon, an Antonio Tabucchi-like narrator whiles away the time waiting to meet up with a Fernando Pessoa-like poet sometime around the stroke of midnight.  As in a dream, the narrator crosses paths with both the living and the dead--family members, old friends, total strangers, perhaps people he only knows through books--looking for answers that have long avoided him or perplexed him in "reality."  "I didn't choose to appear in this room, it was your will that called me here, because it was you who wanted me in your dream, and now I only have time to say goodbye, goodbye my son, the maid is just about to knock on the door, I have to leave" the sleeping narrator is told in one moment (52).  "I've never been here before, and the person who's coming here belongs only in my memory" the narrator later tells the manager of a private club about the guest he expects to arrive and join him (82).  "There's nothing wrong with that, he said, you'll feel perfectly at home here, this club is nothing but a memory, now."  Extraordinarily soulful, endearingly playful from time to time, not at all disquieting in its evocations of evanescence.

Antonio Tabucchi (1943-2012)

jueves, 19 de julio de 2018

Inquietudes sentimentales

Inquietudes sentimentales (Alquimia Ediciones, 2016)
by Thérèse Wilms Montt
Argentina, 1917

The young Thérèse (later Teresa) Wilms Montt's first chapbook, the angsty and occasionally preternaturally macabre Inquietudes sentimentales [Sentimental Concerns], was once blandly described by its author as a work which "habla de la sociedad chilena" ["speaks about Chilean society"] or some such pedestrian mumbo jumbo.  Whether that explanation was intentionally vague or exactly the sort of revenge-minded, gloved backhand to her recently abandoned home country that you'd expect from an aristocrat turned bohemian who'd had to flee the convent where she'd been locked up by an abusive husband, voilà the poem in prose debut of a singular and apparently singularly unhappy talent.  I confess that I love Wilms Montt's imagery even though I'm not quite sure what to make of the content of her work in some ways.  Are these 50 short pieces autobiographical?  More concerned with the aesthetic end of things?  Do such questions even matter?  Whatever, the Baudelairean spleen does seem heartfelt (is that the word?) enough here & for every mopey love poem that threatens to put me to sleep, Wilms Montt more often than not offers up a non-narcotic antidote in the form of a memorable image--"un corazón partido sobre un plato de Sèvres" ["a broken heart on a Sèvres platter"] (13); a menacing start to a poem--"El silencio ha estrangulado la noche" ["Silence has strangled the night"] (19); or that uplifting bit about how the pealing of bells doesn't always signify the announcement of a festive occasion for, "tras de él suele venir el carro de los leprosos" ["after it, the lepers' cart often follows"] (14).

Teresa Wilms Montt (1893-1921)

Inquietudes sentimentales appears alongside Los tres cantos (1917), En la quietud de mármol (1918), and Anuarí (1918)--the three other collections Wilms Montt published in her lifetime--and the standalone poem Belzebuth (1919) in the handsome centennial edition of her Poesía reunida (Santiago de Chile: Alquimia Ediciones, 2016, pp. 9-35).

domingo, 15 de julio de 2018

Spanish and Portuguese Lit Months 2018: 7/8-7/14 Links

Alejandra Costamagna

David Hebblethwaite, David's Book World
The Iliac Crest by Cristina Rivera Garza

John, The Modern Novel
Los fantasmas (Ghosts) by César Aira

Juliana Brina, the [blank] garden
Ana Martins Marques (profile & bibliography)
what day knits night forgets (poems by Ana Martins Marques)
Alice Sant'Anna (profile & bibliography)
to embrace the whale (poems by Alice Sant'Anna)

Michael Kitto, Knowledge Lost
The Impostor by Javier Cercas

Richard, Caravana de recuerdos
Las muertas by Jorge Ibargüengoitia

Stu, Winstonsdad's Blog
Op Oloop by Juan Filloy

Tony, Tony's Reading List
Seeing Red by Lina Meruane 

sábado, 14 de julio de 2018

Las muertas

Las muertas (Joaquín Mortiz epub, 2018)
by Jorge Ibargüengoitia
Mexico, 1977

Las muertas [The Dead Girls], a selection from Ignacio Echevarría's list of the essential books in Spanish-language literature since the 1950s, was a fun introduction to the Mexican Ibargüengoitia for me even if it struck me as maybe more a four-star rather than a five-star caliber read if truth be told--the pulp awesomosity of that cover notwithstanding.  Wait, did I just say "fun"?  Loosely based on an appalling Mexican true crime story in which a family of four brothel-owning sisters engaged in a decades-long orgy of white slavery, serial killing and body dumping on a scale that beggars the imagination, Ibargüengoitia's fictionalization of the events mercifully shapeshifts into something of an arch genre novel chronicling a similar case with a much lower body count.  The text's humor (a whorehouse named México Lindo; a drug dealer whose distinctive indigenous facial features earn him a description as "una especie de Benito Juárez del hampa" ["a sort of gangland Benito Juárez"]), a quasi-police report style ably incorporating a range of narrative points of view, and its breezy tone all make Las muertas go down smooth from an entertainment standpoint, but one of the things that makes me suspect I might be underrating it as mere dark satire is something that's missing as time goes on just as clearly as the titular dead girls: an authorial POV.  As Mauro Libertella notes in his review for Clarín, Ibargüengoitia's narrator here is one who only relates events, who doesn't doesn't pass judgement on the crimes themselves, "como si la historia se contara sola y se explicara a sí misma, porque finalmente no hay nada más díficil de explicar que la violencia extrema" ["as if the story were told by itself and was self-explanatory because, in the end, there's nothing more difficult to explain than extreme violence"].  Food for pinche thought.

Jorge Ibargüengoitia (1928-1983)

martes, 10 de julio de 2018

Teresa Wilms Montt, de tumba en tumba

"Teresa Wilms Montt, de tumba en tumba"
by Alejandra Costamagna
Chile, 2011

"Teresa Wilms Montt, de tumba en tumba" ["Teresa Wilms Montt, from Tomb to Tomb"] is a gloomy, doom-perfumed biographical sketch of the Chilean poétesse maudite (1893-1921, above) who wowed then mostly all-male literary salons in Buenos Aires, Madrid and Paris before ending her life in the company of a flask full of Veronal.  While she walked the earth, she espoused sepulchral raisons d'être such as the following--"Soñar, sin parar, encerrada entre las paredes de mármol, lisas y limpias, de una tumba" ["Endlessly dreaming, shut inside the marble walls, clean and smooth, of a tomb"] (46)--and spent time among the gravestones in Buenos Aires' stately Recoleta Cementery penning diary entry-like notes to the rejected lover who had slit his wrists in front of her: "De la vida a tu tumba, de tu tumba a la vida, ése es mi destino" ["From life to your tomb, from your tomb to life, that is my fate"] (60).  Although, as with fellow suicide Gérard de Nerval's pages, it may be tough to suss out where the boundaries between the autobiographical and the artistic dissolve in Wilms Montt's slender body of work, essayist Alejandra Costamagna makes me want to learn more--much more actually--with the literarily come-hither comment that "la escritura de Teresa Wilms Montt es el coro de su leyenda" ["Teresa Wilms Montt's writing is the chorus to her legend"] (49).  In other words, more Wilms Montt in my future.

Alejandra Costamagna

"Teresa Wilms Montt, de tumba en tumba" is the second of seventeen sketches to appear in the Leila Guerriero-curated Los malditos (Santiago: Ediciones Universidad Diego Portales, 2011, 45-64).  Readers of Spanish can enjoy what seems to be a complete version of Costamagna's essay here.

domingo, 8 de julio de 2018

Spanish and Portuguese Lit Months 2018

With apologies for my way belated announcement of this, I'm happy to note that Stu of Winstonsdad's Blog  and I are once again hosting our annual summer reading event this time under the rather unwieldy moniker of Spanish and Portuguese Lit Months 2018 (equally unwieldy Twitter hashtag: #Spanishandportugueselitmonths).  The invitation to the shindig is open to all, and participation is as easy as reading one or more works originally written in Spanish or Portuguese and letting me or Stu know about your July and August reviews by the end of the latter month.  As in previous years, Basque, Catalan, and Galician works will also count for participation purposes as Spanish and Portuguese "friendlies," and those of you who don't blog about books but still want to talk about them are naturally encouraged to join in on the discussion fun on participating blogs, on Twitter, or wherever you care to indulge in your book talk.  To that end, I'll be compiling an ongoing list of confirmed Spanish and Portuguese Lit Months 2018 readers below along with a round-up of last week's links to reviews below the first below, ahem, below.  Cheers!

Spanish and Portuguese Lit Months 2018 Readers
Bellezza, Dolce Bellezza
David Hebblethwaite, David's Book World
Deb Nance, Readerbuzz
Emma, Book Around the Corner
Grant, 1streading's Blog
Ina Cawl, Somali Bookaholic
JacquiWine, JacquiWine's Journal
John, The Modern Novel
Joseph Schreiber, roughghosts 
Juliana Brina, the [blank] garden

7/1-7/7 Links
David Hebblethwaite, David's Book World
The Blind Spot by Javier Cercas

Joseph Schreiber, roughghosts

Richard, Caravana de recuerdos
La hora azul by Alonso Cueto

Stu, Winstonsdad's Blog
Skylight by José Saramago
The Shape of the Ruins by Juan Gabriel Vásquez
The Tunnel by Ernesto Sabato

martes, 3 de julio de 2018

La hora azul

La hora azul (Anagrama, 2010)
by Alonso Cueto
Peru, 2005

Adrián Ormache, the pseudonymous narrator of the intense but relatively no-frills/memoir-like La hora azul [The Blue Hour], is a well off Lima lawyer who undergoes a major midlife crisis of sorts when he learns a terrible family secret after the death of his parents: his father, a high-ranking military officer during the government's war with Sendero Luminoso [Shining Path], not only tortured terrorists and alleged terrorists alike during his time in rebellious Ayacucho but also kept a local teenager hostage as a sex slave before she managed to escape her foreordained execution.  The younger Ormache's search for understanding of his father's actions and his more and more obsessive quest to meet the woman who got away lead him on a cross-country trek through some of the moral and geographical bloodlands of recent Peruvian history even as the character's day to day experiences in class-conscious Lima prove that coming to grips with the social and economic roots of those horrors years later is akin to picking at a guilt-ridden scab.  In less subtle/more highly strung hands, La hora azul could have done a real disservice to its traumatic subject matter.  Fortunately, even a less than convincing love story was only a minor distraction in a sobering novel which seems to suggest that suffering the venom of everyday prejudice--e.g. Ormache's wife's snide complaint that he would deign to have an affair with "una india cualquiera" ["some random Indian woman"]--is the only solace that many poor and dark-skinned Peruvians could hope to expect for surviving being stuck in the middle between Sendero and the soldados during the time of the atrocities.  Unsettling.

Alonso Cueto

I read La hora azul with Spanish and Portuguese Lit Months 2018 in mind, an annual event now taking place with Stu of Winstonsdad's Blog and others throughout July and August.  Stu first brought Cueto's The Blue Hour to my attention back in 2012 here, a shame it took me six whole years to follow his lead.