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

domingo, 31 de julio de 2016

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


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

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

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

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

JacquiWine, JacquiWine's Journal
Affections by Rodrigo Hasbún

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tony, Tony's Reading List

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

jueves, 28 de julio de 2016

La Grève des bàttu

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

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

Aminata Sow Fall