Monday, October 19, 2009

José Saramago - Cain

Last Monday José Saramago launched his new novel "Cain" with a very critical view of the Bible.

A row broke out in Portugal on Monday after a Nobel Prize-winning author denounced the Bible as a "handbook of bad morals".

Speaking at the launch of his new book "Cain", Jose Saramago, who won the 1998 Nobel Prize for Literature, said society would probably be better off without the Bible.

Roman Catholic Church leaders accused the 86-year-old of a publicity stunt.

The book is an ironic retelling of the Biblical story of Cain, Adam and Eve's son who killed his younger brother Abel.

At the launch event in the northern Portuguese town of Penafiel on Sunday, Saramago said he did not think the book would offend Catholics "because they do not read the Bible".

"The Bible is a manual of bad morals (which) has a powerful influence on our culture and even our way of life. Without the Bible, we would be different, and probably better people," he was quoted as saying by the news agency Lusa. Read More

This is not a new situation, in 1992 when he released "The Gospel According to Jesus Christ", the book was even banned from running to a literary prize by a member of the portuguese government close to the catholic church.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Carlos Drummond de Andrade

Brazilian publishers Record created a web site (in portuguese) dedicated to Carlos Drummond de Andrade, one of the greatest writers of brazilian literature and one of the masters of the portuguese language.
It can be visited here.

Gerald Martin - Gabriel Garcia Marquez - Une vie

Étienne de Montety (Le Figaro) reviews the french traslation of Gerald Martin's "Gabriel Garcia Marquez - A Life" (Gabriel Garcia Marquez - Une vie)

Garcia Marquez travaille beaucoup. Pour le cinéma et aussi pour la presse colombienne et espagnole. Nombre de ses articles traitent du prix Nobel de littérature et de l'Académie suédoise, Dieu sait pourquoi. Un jour de 1982, il reçoit un coup de téléphone lui annonçant que le prix lui échoit. Le cri de sa femme est éloquent : «Mon Dieu, qu'est-ce qui nous attend, maintenant ?» La réponse est contenue dans une déclaration de Garcia Marquez, faite à ses débuts dans la carrière. Elle résume cet homme complexe longtemps tiraillé entre l'action poli­tique et l'écriture, toujours tenté de faire coïncider les deux, mais mû par une telle énergie qu'il lui est impossible de considérer la littérature comme un art replié sur soi-même. Gabo ne manque pas d'humour, sinon de vérité quand il assure : «Je ne parle jamais de littérature parce que je ne sais pas ce que c'est ; de plus, je suis convaincu que le monde serait le même sans elle. D'un autre côté, je suis convaincu qu'il serait différent sans la police. Je pense par conséquent que j'aurais été plus utile à l'humanité si, au lieu d'être écrivain, j'avais été terroriste.»

Et pourquoi pas un écrivain dont les livres seraient autant de bombes lancées dans le choeur paisible de la littérature mondiale ? Read More

Premio Internacional de Ensayo Caballero Bonald

Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa won the 2009 Premio Internacional de Ensayo Caballero Bonald for his essay "El viaje a la ficción", where he analyses the life and work of Juan Carlos Onetti.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Roberto Bolaño: The Skating Rink

Wyatt Mason reviews Roberto Bolañops The Skating Rink.
In the apparently inexhaustible post­humous career of the Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño, a significant second act will soon be upon us, leaving some readers to clap excitedly while others throw up their hands in submission: the large number of books by Bolaño already available is soon to double. In addition to the eight that have swiftly and ably arrived in translation in the six years since his death in 2003 at age 50, four new books by Bolaño are scheduled to appear in 2010 (two novels, two story collections) with three others promised for 2011. What’s more, according to recent reports out of Spain, another two finished novels have been found among Bolaño’s papers, as well as a sixth, unknown part of his already abundant 900-page novel “2666.”

While such a mountain of new material is bound to make literary hearts flutter, a little red flag waves at its summit: when it comes to publishing the dead, the best isn’t often saved for last. Given the nearly uniform excellence of Bolaño’s writing to date, it seems unlikely that any of the looming titles could equal the exceptional “By Night in Chile” (translated in 2003), “The Savage Detectives” (2007) or last year’s “2666,” which already compete for consideration as Bolaño’s masterpiece. At the very least, readers yet to experience Bolaño’s writing — its narrative variety and verve, its linguistic resourcefulness, its unusual combination of gravity and playfulness, brutality and tenderness — increasingly face the very practical problem of having to divine which book on the widening shelf of Bolaños should be read first.

“The Skating Rink,” the only new Bolaño appearing this year, won’t make the decision any easier: this short, exquisite novel is another unlikely masterpiece, as sui generis as all his books so far. Originally published in Spanish in 1993 and the first of Bolaño’s novels to see print, “The Skating Rink” could seem, in thumbnail, little more than a modest whodunit. A crime, the brutal murder of a woman, is committed in the Spanish seaside town of Z. As the corpse-and-culprit genre dictates, the novel establishes the sequence of events that sets the crime in motion and follows the bloody trail until, in the final pages, the killer’s surprising identity is revealed.
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Manuel Mujica Láinez

Manuel Mujica Láinez (1910 - 1984), Argentine fiction writer and art critic

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Julio Cortázar

Julio Cortázar (1914 – 1984), Argentine writer

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Augusto Roa Bastos

Augusto Roa Bastos (1917 – 2005), Paraguayan novelist.

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Mario Bellatin: Beauty Salon

Mario Bellatín, Beauty Salon (City Lights)

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César Vallejo: The Complete Poetry

César Vallejo: The Complete Poetry: A Bilingual Edition (University of California)

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Antero de Quental

Antero de Quental, Portuguese Poet (1814-1873) painted by Columbano Bordalo Pinheiro.

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Roberto Bolaño: Amulet

Roberto Bolaño, Amulet (Picador)

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Roberto Bolaño: Amulet

David Flusfeder reviews Roberto Bolaño's Amulet.
The Chilean poet, novelist and provocateur Roberto Bolaño died in Spain in 2003. He was 50 years old and had already gathered a wide readership in the Spanish-speaking world. Death, though, can be a great career move. The response to the 2007 publication in the United States of his 1998 novel The Savage Detectives, followed by 2666, which was almost finished at the time of his death, has brought him into the international literary front rank. Both are large books, celebrations of poetry and a battered kind of urban heroism, written in Bolaño’s beguiling combination of concision and wordiness. But now, with the success of those, his smaller books are being translated into English for the first time.

Bolaño’s work is a roman-fleuve: characters and situations recur throughout his writings, and time is a watery element that the characters drift through. Amulet has its origin in a 10-page episode in The Savage Detectives. That novel was centred on two provocative young poets living in Mexico City in 1976: Ulises Lima and the author’s alter-ego, Arturo Bolaño. In one of the most striking episodes, a woman, Auxilio Lacoutre, “the mother of Mexican poetry” (and a “mother” is, in this context, a woman who sweeps and shops and listens and adores), is in a fourth-floor lavatory cubicle when the army occupies the campus of the Mexico City Universidad. She is stuck there for 12 days. In the original episode, the emphasis was on Auxilio’s physical predicament. She drank water from the tap, ate loo paper and lived in a state of fear and heightened memory.

In Amulet, the emphasis is on the remembering rather than the predicament. Auxilio suffers from the blessing of being able to “remember” the future as well as the past. There are feverish prophecies about literary destinies: “For Marcel Proust, a desperate and prolonged period of oblivion shall begin in the year 2033… Jorge Luis Borges shall be read underground in the year 2045… Louis-Ferdinand Céline shall enter Purgatory in the year 2094… Witold Gombrowicz shall enjoy great prestige in the environs of the Rio de la Plata around the year 2098… Max Jacob shall cease to be read, that is to say his last reader shall die, in the year 2059.”
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Junot Diáz: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Junot Diáz: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Riverhead Trade)

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Jorge Volpi: Bolivar’s Insomnia

Jorge Volpi, introduced his essay “Bolivar’s insomnia” at the XXII International Book Fair in Bogota, where power will find controversial issues as “the evolution of democracy, leaders of the region, drug trafficking and local issues that transcend borders. ”

He made statements about his work related to Latin America:
“Latin America has disappeared for the world because it is not the place of dictatorships and guerrillas, except for the dramatic case of Colombia, nor of the fantastic stories portrayed in the Macondo of Gabriel García Márquez.”
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Roberto Bolaño is an example of dead authors sucess. A new market trend?
Chilean novelist and poet Roberto Bolano was highly acclaimed in Latin America, but his work wasn't published in English until 2003, the year he died. "The Savage Detectives" finally got him noticed here when it was published in English in 2007, and his final novel, the enigmatic 900-page "2666," earned the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction last year.
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José Saramago's new novel

José Saramago's new novel "Cain" will be presented in October.
A return to biblical themes almost 20 years after The Gospel According to Jesus Christ(1991).
Portuguese author Jose Saramago takes an irreverent look at the Old Testament in his new novel, “Cain,” in which he absolves that Biblical villain of the killing of his brother and puts the blame squarely on God.

His Portuguese-language publisher, Zeferino Coelho, will present the novel at the Frankfurt Book Fair in October and the title is scheduled for release in bookstores in Portugal, Latin America and Spain by the end of that month.
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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Benjamin Moser: Why This World - A Biography of Clarice Lispector

Fernanda Eberstadt reviews Benjamin Moser's "Why This World - A Biography of Clarice Lispector".
Here's a riddle for literary sleuths. Which 20th-century writer was described by the eminent French critic Hélène Cixous as being what Rilke might have been, if he were a "Jewish Brazilian born in the Ukraine"? By the poet Elizabeth Bishop as "better than J. L. Borges"? And by the Brazilian musician Caetano Veloso as one of the chief revelations of his adolescence, along with sex and love and bossa nova? The answer is Clarice Lispector, a Portuguese-language novelist who died in Rio de Janeiro in 1977, and who, despite a cult following of artists and scholars, has yet to gain her rightful place in the literary canon.
During her lifetime, Lispector, a catlike blond beauty with movie-star magnetism and an indefinably foreign accent, enjoyed an enormous succès d'estime in Brazil. Her fiction, which combines jewel-like language, deadpan humor, philosophical profundity and an almost psychotically lucid understanding of the human condition, was lauded for having introduced European modernism to a national literature felt to be pretty parochial.

Carlos Fuentes Lemus: La palabra sobrevive; poemas 1986-1999

Fondo de Cultura Económica (FCE) presented a new edition of "La palabra sobrevive; poemas 1986-1999" a collection of poems of Carlos Fuentes Lemus (1973-1999) son of Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes.
La obra contiene el epílogo de escritor español Julián Ríos escrito en marzo de 2000, para su primera edición, en la que considera que la muerte está "agazapada en cada poema" de la obra de Fuentes Lemus.
Para el editor Omegar Martínez el "valor intrínseco" de la reedición estriba en que "muestra la posibilidad de la gama que hubiese alcanzado el autor de haber seguido vivo".
A su juicio, el poemario "tiene una profundidad muy intensa y a veces se desdibuja, como los primeros intentos de un adolescente que escribe, pero con una intensidad muy valiosa, casi inusitada para autores de su generación, de su edad".
"Como editor veo la capacidad de un lenguaje de superponerse al mismo sufrimiento y crecimiento de un adulto joven, y la capacidad de la poesía para sobrevivir a pesar de la pesadumbre", concluye.

Roberto Bolaño: The Skating Rink

Recomended reading by Books Inc.
The Skating Rink
by Roberto Bolaño: If you were dazzled by "2666," you'll be gasping at the scandalous suspense in this part mystery, part love story.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Benjamin Moser: Why This World: A Biography of Clarice Lispector

A review of Benjamin Moser's "Why This World: A Biography of Clarice Lispector".

"PREHUMAN divine life is a life of singeing nowness." Clarice Lispector, who wrote these words, was as enigmatic as they are. Benjamin Moser sets out to crack the enigma. One finishes his new biography largely persuaded by his solution while wishing that he had gone at the task a little less strenuously.
Lispector, the "princess of the Portuguese language" and perhaps the first Latin American writer to be identified as a practitioner of magic realism, is one of the more obscure geniuses of modern letters. A Brazilian Jew, she fashioned strange, experimental novels and stories in elemental settings that seem only tangentially related either to Brazil or to Judaism. She proclaimed her Brazilianness more often and more forcefully than her Jewishness. But Mr Moser believes that her work is profoundly Jewish. He makes the case that her tragedies and philosophical concerns led her to create a body of work that belongs within the tradition of Jewish mysticism.
Lispector was born in Ukraine to a family still reeling from the pogroms and plagues that followed the first world war and the creation of the Soviet Union. Her feet never touched Ukrainian soil, she insisted—she was a year old when the family fled. Her intellectually ambitious father turned to peddling in Brazil's poor north-east. Her mother, a secret writer herself, died slowly from syphilis caught from rape in the old country.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Juan Gabriel Vásquez: The Informers

Bojan Louis reviews Juan Gabriel Vásquez' The Informers.
Has Gabriel García Márquez really given up writing fiction? If so, there's an upside-other Colombian writers will finally get the attention they deserve. The Bogotá-born Vásquez is one of them, with a fresh, exciting voice and an elegantly written debut.
The Informers' narrator, Gabriel Santoro, seeks to confront his father, an esteemed professor and lawyer who's written a scathing review of Gabriel's new book, a biography about a lifelong Jewish friend exiled to Colombia after escaping Nazi Germany. Santoro discovers the history of a blacklist for Nazi sympathizers and his father's involvement. The revelation leads to an act of betrayal and to desires for clarity and forgiveness.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The World's Largest Flower

A Maior Flor do Mundo (The World's Largest Flower) is a short film directed by Juan Pablo Etcheverry based on the children book written by José Samarago.

A Maior Flor do Mundo from Fundação Jose Saramago on Vimeo.

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Mentiras Piadosas

Rodrigo Fresán writes about Mentiras Piadosas, a film directed by Diego Sabanés, based on a short story by Julio Cortázar "La salud de los enfermos". You can find the text in Pagina 12.


Cesário Verde Translated to English

Richard Zenith translated one of Cesário Verde's most known poems "O Sentimento de um Ocidental", the english version, titled "The Feeling of a Westerner" can be found here.

You can also found a brief article on Cesário Verde's life and work, with some context for the poem.

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Juan Gabriel Vásquez: The Informers

Adam Mansbach reviews Juan Gabriel Vásquez' The Informers
The past is a shadow-bound, elusive creature in Colombian writer Juan Gabriel Vásquez's "The Informers." When pursued it may flee, or, if cornered, it may unleash terrible truths. Disturb it even slightly and it can subsume the present, as a journalist learns when his memoir of a family friend inadvertently illuminates events his father -- and his country -- would prefer remained forgotten.
"The Informers" is narrated by Gabriel Santoro, a Bogotá reporter and author of a book that recounts the life story of a Jewish German immigrant named Sara Guterman whose family was one of many to escape to Colombia during the early years of Nazism. The primary distinction of "A Life in Exile," this book within a book, is the review it receives from Santoro's identically named father. The elder Santoro, a professor with a reputation as the moral conscience of the embattled nation, inexplicably savages the book in a prominent newspaper.
When his son confronts him, the scholar elaborates on his dismissal: "Memory isn't public. . . . [T]hose who through prayer or pretense had arrived at a certain conciliation, are now back to square one. . . . you come along, white knight of history, to display your courage by awakening things . . . you and your parasitical book, your exploitative book, your intrusive book."

Guillermo Rosales: The Halfway House

Beatriz Terrazas reviews Guillermo Rosales' The Halfway House

The Halfway House is a violent tale about a mentally ill Cuban exile. Though fiction, the book is based on the author's own life.
Guillermo Rosales fled Cuba in 1979 and, due to severe schizophrenia, spent much time in what were called boarding homes or halfway houses in Miami. Ostensibly for people who needed psychiatric help, they were dumping grounds for those considered unfit for society.
The book is narrated by William Figueras, a writer who by 15 "had read the great Proust, Hesse, Joyce, Miller, Mann," and who claims to have been driven mad by Cuba's communist regime.
The halfway house, he says, is where the "desperate and hopeless go – crazy ones for the most part, with a smattering of old people abandoned by their families to die of loneliness so they won't screw up life for the winners."
Though in Miami just six months, he has been in three psych wards. The boarding home is his last stop. There, meals are served raw, and the toilets are "always clogged since some of the residents stick in them old shirts, sheets, curtains and other cloth materials that they use to wipe their behinds."
In less than 24 hours he witnesses a rape and becomes complicit in the many crimes, large and small, committed in the house.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Guillermo Rosales: The Halfway House

Beatriz Terrazas reviews Guillermo Rosales' The Halfway House

The Halfway House is a violent tale about a mentally ill Cuban exile. Though fiction, the book is based on the author's own life.

Guillermo Rosales fled Cuba in 1979 and, due to severe schizophrenia, spent much time in what were called boarding homes or halfway houses in Miami. Ostensibly for people who needed psychiatric help, they were dumping grounds for those considered unfit for society.

The book is narrated by William Figueras, a writer who by 15 "had read the great Proust, Hesse, Joyce, Miller, Mann," and who claims to have been driven mad by Cuba's communist regime.

The halfway house, he says, is where the "desperate and hopeless go – crazy ones for the most part, with a smattering of old people abandoned by their families to die of loneliness so they won't screw up life for the winners."

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Juan Rulfo: Pedro Páramo

Juan Rulfo's Pedro Páramo is Suhayl Saadi's book of a lifetime.

For me, reading Pedro Páramo is like opening a small mosaïque box, only to discover that it is empty, save for the whispers of those who had opened the box in the past. The novel is set in the post-revolutionary dustbowls of early 20th-century Mexico, when rapid industrialisation left hundreds of ghost villages scattered across the rural south. Urged by his dying mother to reclaim his patrimony, Juan Preciado arrives at Comala, and finds that things are not as they seem.

Written by immigration agent Juan Rulfo with state funding and published in Mexico in 1955, this psychotic novel does everything one could never dream of if limited by contemporary creative-writing dogma. The book's structure fragments and its protagonist fades out of the narrative, there is no clear plot-line, no hooks, no character development arcs, no climax, no epilogue, and one is left with an existential sense of dislocation and uncertainty. If this novel were to have been written today, there is little possibility that it would have been published.

Yet without Pedro Páramo (translated into English by Margaret Sayers Peden), there would not have been One Hundred Years of Solitude, Hopscotch or Midnight's Children. The literature of the past 50 years, our conception of the relationship between the word and reality, would have been measurably poorer.

Redolent of the hallucinatory work of Poe, Lovecraft, Bulgakov, Laxness, Burroughs and perhaps Faulkner, this fluid, Dantean "Mexican Gothic" tale is part socio-historical commentary, part transformative song. Rulfo's immigration job took him all over southern Mexico. He was an excellent photographer and later he became publishing director of the National Indigenist Institute. His is a text in which meaning is subsumed into an architecture of shadows and whispers, and into the ebb and flow of the vernacular. The prose is spare, vivid, luminous and yet evokes a pernicious sense of gloom. While his iconic novel draws on booze, folk Catholicism and the peculiar Mexican relationship with death, unlike more fêted Latin American writers, Rulfo does not dance exotic.

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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Roberto Bolaño: The Skating Rink

Scott Esposito reviews  "The Skating Rink" by Roberto Bolaño (trans. Chris Andrews)

In his famous (if rather ungainly titled) essay "Introduction to the Structural Analysis of Narratives," Roland Barthes differentiated between two kinds of statements found in novels. One he called nuclei, saying that these "constitute real hinge-points of the narrative"; the other kind he called "catalyzers," and these "merely 'fill in' the narrative space" around the nuclei. The Skating Rink, Roberto Bolaño's most recently translated novel and his first published in Spanish, is a book in which it is difficult to tell which is which.

For those who are up on their Bolaño, Rink reads like a stripped-down version of The Savage Detectives' middle section, where over fifty narrators reconstruct events that occurred over the course of decades. By contrast, rather than decades The Skating Rink concerns just one summer; rather than fifty-some narrators Bolaño here gives us three; and rather than ranging all over the world, The Skating Rink roots itself in a town known as Z, a beachside resort located close to Barcelona.
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Jose Saramago: The Elephant’s Journey

José Saramago's "The Elephant's Journey" to be published in 2010.

On the heels of the runaway success of the Sara Gruen novel "Water for Elephants," another writer is about to take aim at the best-seller list with a novel populated with elephants — only this time it's the Nobel Prize-winning author José Saramago, who we assume will have a slightly different take on the subject.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Gerald Martin: Gabriel García Márquez - A Life

Glenn C. Altschuler reviews Gerald Martin's Gabriel García Márquez - A Life

Sick of school and the expectations placed on him, 18-year-old Gabriel Garcia Marquez joined a musical group, partied all night, and disappeared for days at a time at a local whorehouse.

Not the kind of behavior, his mother told him, for someone with the potential to be a novelist. If he was going to be a writer, Garcia Marquez shot back, he wanted to be "one of the greats and they don't make them anymore."

A little more than two decades later, with the publication of One Hundred Years of Solitude, a history of the settlement in Colombia he named Macondo, set on the border between "true facts" and imagined details, Garcia Marquez became world-famous. In 1982, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. In 1985, he attracted millions more readers with Love in the Time of Cholera, a remarkable meditation on the human terms of endearment.

In Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Gerald Martin, a professor emeritus of modern languages at the University of Pittsburgh, provides a richly detailed, authorized biography, based on conversations with his subject, conducted over 15 years; hundreds of interviews with family members, friends, and foes; and extensive archival research.

Though Martin pulls a punch or two in assessing Garcia Marquez's fidelity to Fidel Castro, his book is a judicious - and occasionally juicy - examination of the relationship among Gabo's life, his politics, and his work.
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Gerald Martin: Gabriel García Márquez - A Life

Jonathan Yardley reviews Gerald Martin's Gabriel García Márquez - A Life

Far more so than most writers, Gabriel García Márquez has lived a full life that goes beyond his typewriter or, more recently, his computer. Not merely has he written three of the 20th century's greatest novels -- "One Hundred Years of Solitude," "The Autumn of the Patriarch" and "Love in the Time of Cholera" -- but he has been a highly active participant in public events during a time of immense change and controversy in Latin America. He has been the friend and confidant of presidents (and dictators), a leading advocate of leftist politics, a dabbler in movie-making and a widely read, influential journalist, among other things.

For the literary biographer, this is a heady mix. To be sure, in García Márquez's case as in every writer's, the books are all that really matters, but there's a real story here as well. Gerald Martin, a British academic who specializes in Latin American literature, has been "working on this biography for seventeen years," with the "friendly, hospitable and tolerant" acquiescence of its subject, and on the whole has made the most of the opportunities that García Márquez's life offers. He does rattle on too long about García Márquez's political activities, but he skillfully shows how a long journalistic apprenticeship led to the incredible creative explosion that produced "One Hundred Years of Solitude."
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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Gerald Martin Gabriel García Márquez - A Life

Jonathan Yardley reviews Gerald Martin's Gabriel García Márquez - A Life

Far more so than most writers, Gabriel García Márquez has lived a full life that goes beyond his typewriter or, more recently, his computer. Not merely has he written three of the 20th century's greatest novels -- "One Hundred Years of Solitude," "The Autumn of the Patriarch" and "Love in the Time of Cholera" -- but he has been a highly active participant in public events during a time of immense change and controversy in Latin America. He has been the friend and confidant of presidents (and dictators), a leading advocate of leftist politics, a dabbler in movie-making and a widely read, influential journalist, among other things.

For the literary biographer, this is a heady mix. To be sure, in García Márquez's case as in every writer's, the books are all that really matters, but there's a real story here as well. Gerald Martin, a British academic who specializes in Latin American literature, has been "working on this biography for seventeen years," with the "friendly, hospitable and tolerant" acquiescence of its subject, and on the whole has made the most of the opportunities that García Márquez's life offers. He does rattle on too long about García Márquez's political activities, but he skillfully shows how a long journalistic apprenticeship led to the incredible creative explosion that produced "One Hundred Years of Solitude."

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Friday, May 08, 2009

Mexican poet José Emilio Pacheco won the XVIII Premio Reina Sofía de Poesia. Read More

Kindle Dx

Read the analysis from Peter Glaskowsky, David Rothman and Karen Templer.

Bloomsbury has acquired world English rights to  The Anatomy of a Moment by Javier Cercas. Read More

Una llave en East Lansing

Soy una pieza de limado acero.
Mi borde irregular no es arbitrario.
Duermo mi vago sueño en un armario
Que no veo, sujeta a mi llavero.
Hay una cerradura que me espera.
Una sola. La puerta es de forjado
Hierro y firme cristal. Del otro lado
Está la casa, oculta y verdadera.
Altos en la penumbra los desiertos
Espejos ven las noches y los días
Y las fotografías de los muertos
Y el tenue ayer de las fotografías.
Alguna vez empujaré la dura
Puerta y haré girar la cerradura.

(Jorge Luis Borges)

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Gerald Martin: Gabriel García Márquez: A Life

Ariel Gonzalez reviews Gerald Martin's biography of Gabriel García Márquez

Gerald Martin's biography of Gabriel García Márquez suffers from hero worship, but it provides essential insight into this morally myopic man, whose unwavering loyalty to an odious tyrant belies the wisdom and depth of humanity he has demonstrated in his novels and stories.

Notwithstanding the withholding of his formal approval, García Márquez placed no obstacles in Martin's path. Still, Martin had his work cut out for him. García Márquez likes to control his public image, so evasions and exaggerations had to be sifted through to arrive at an approximation of the truth.

Naturally Martin begins in Aracateca, García Márquez's birthplace and the model for his fictional Macondo in One Hundred Years of Solitude, the multigenerational epic read by millions on both sides of the equator. ''Gabo,'' as he is generally known, spent his first seven years in this Colombian backwater without his parents, who left him to find their fortune. But he was cared for and doted upon by his maternal grandparents, a pair of born storytellers who regaled him with magically realistic tales of love and war.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Gabriel Garcia Marquez: One Hundred Years of Solitude

T. C. Boyle elects Gabriel Garcia Marquez' One Hundred Years of Solitude as his book of a lifetime.

It may come as a great shock to my readers to discover that I wasn't always the elegantly dressed, highly attuned citizen of the world they have come to know. Far from it. In fact, for some time I was a quite clearly deranged wild-haired youth dressed in motley and living in hippie squalor in the gatehouse to a castle on the Hudson, in company with three dogs and three glowing specimens of my own species.

I was experiencing nature. And reading. (As well as other things it would be impolite to mention in a family newspaper.) In that period I came across the magical realists of Latin America: Borges, Cortazar, Asturias, Garcia Marquez.

I can still recall the excitement of stretching out my long undernourished frame on a very doggy sofa in front of the fire and coming upon the exquisite opening sentence (which I am quoting from the very copy I then held, which is, as you can imagine, much the worse for wear): "Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice."

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Man Booker International Prize

Mario Vargas Llosa shortlisted for Man Booker International Prize

The short for this year's Prize has just been announced:

Peter Carey (Australia)
Evan S. Connell (USA)
Mahasweta Devi (India)
E.L. Doctorow (USA)
James Kelman (UK)
Mario Vargas Llosa (Peru)
Arnost Lustig (Czechoslovakia)
Alice Munro (Canada)
V.S. Naipaul (Trinidad/India)
Joyce Carol Oates (USA)
Antonio Tabucchi (Italy)
Ngugi Wa Thiong'O (Kenya)
Dubravka Ugresic (Croatia)
Ludmila Ulitskaya (Russia)

The winner will be announced in May.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Interview with Santiago Roncagliolo

Santiago Roncagliolo presented his new novel "Memorias de una dama" in Madrid.

El escritor peruano Santiago Roncagliolo inocula buenas dosis de realidad y de historia en su nueva novela, Memorias de una dama, una obra protagonizada en parte por las mafias que durante décadas dominaron en el Caribe y en la que el autor realiza también una sátira del mundo literario.

"Nos hemos vuelto devoradores de realidad. Hace cuarenta años se podían publicar novelas como Rayuela o Cien años de soledad, pero ahora somos muy escépticos e incrédulos y hay que meter mucha realidad para que todo parezca verdad", afirma Roncagliolo.

Tras haberse convertido en 2006 en el ganador más joven del Premio Alfaguara con Abril rojo y haber publicado dos años antes la novela Pudor, traducida a más de diez idiomas y llevada al cine, Roncagliolo demuestra que en lo literario es ambicioso y hace una apuesta arriesgada en su nuevo libro.

Porque no es fácil combinar en una misma novela las vicisitudes de un joven escritor peruano -alter ego del propio Roncagliolo-, que llega a España "desesperado por entrar en el mundo editorial", con las memorias de una anciana millonaria y decadente, cuyo padre, "un pequeño Berlusconi de los trópicos", como lo define el narrador, fue golpista, fascista, agente de la CIA y hombre de la Cosa Nostra. Y todo ello en el convulso Caribe de los años treinta a los sesenta.

Roncagliolo (Lima, 1975) es consciente de que las dictaduras de Trujillo y de Batista, la revolución cubana de Fidel Castro y la influencia de la CIA y de la mafia en ese período "se conocen más o menos". Y sabe también que hay novelas excelentes sobre algunos de esos episodios, como La fiesta del Chivo, de Vargas Llosa, un escritor que sale a relucir varias veces en Memorias de una dama.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Paco Ignacio Taibo II: Pancho Villa, roman d'une vie (Pancho Villa: una biografía narrativa)

Sébastien Lapaque reviews Paco Ignacio Taibo II's Pancho Villa, roman d'une vie (Pancho Villa: una biografía narrativa)

Depuis que des conquistadors espagnols ont traversé l'Atlan­tique en emportant le Quichotte dans leurs bagages, l'Amérique latine n'en finit pas de s'inventer des personnages de chevaliers redresseurs de torts. De Simon Bolivar à Hugo Chavez, le fil est romanesque et l'écheveau littéraire. Entre Mexico et Buenos Aires, des millions d'hommes et de femmes soupirent au souvenir de guerriers romantiques et de bandits révolutionnaires droit sortis des grands livres hispaniques.

Romancier prolixe et lecteur passionné de littérature d'aventure, Paco Ignacio Taibo II a naguère magnifié la geste d'Ernesto Che Guevara, «dernier de nos illustres hommes à cheval, si chers à la tradition héroïque de l'Amérique latine» dans une biographie monumentale. Il raconte aujourd'hui Doroteo Arango Arámbula (1878-1923), héros de la révolution mexicaine connu sous le nom de Pancho Villa. Quatre ans de travail ont été nécessaires pour démêler la masse immense des sources et des témoignages. Plus encore que le Che, Pancho Villa a des allures de personnage de fiction. Il a raconté son histoire ; certains l'ont retracée après lui en ajoutant des détails, d'autres ont continué en insérant des chapitres inédits. De sorte qu'il est difficile aujourd'hui de distinguer le rêve et la réalité. «L'historien est bien obligé d'être fasciné par un tel personnage», constate Paco Ignacio Taibo II. Bandolero et voleur de bestiaux à quinze ans, incendiaire et assassin à vingt-cinq, Pancho Villa avait trente-deux ans lorsque ­Francisco Madero, l'apôtre de la révolution, le lança à la conquête de Ciudad Juárez, la plus grande ville de l'État du Chihuahua, posée sur la rive droite du rio Bravo, face à la ville texane d'El Paso. Au même moment, Emiliano Zapata se rendait maître du sud du pays.

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Roberto Bolaño: 2666

Scott Esposito reviews Roberto Bolaño's 2666

Bolaño's final, posthumously published novel, 2666, is dominated by the void. It most frequently manifests the void in the form of madness, madness that is often masked, as Bolaño puts it near the end, "under a suit of armor." This is a book mad with madness: mad artists, mad writers, mad poets, mad professors, mad murderers, mad cops, mad prisoners. Its characters are not so much fully realized individuals as searchers single-mindedly in pursuit of that one thing that will, momentarily, sate their madness.

Bolaño's novels are almost uniformly short; 2666 is huge, and the form sometimes feels like a clumsy one for the author. Some novelists, Pynchon for example, so revel in abundance that the spillage of words feels like an absolute necessity. For them, the huge novel is their one true form. Other novelists, DeLillo maybe, prove themselves capable of extending their austere, ascetic style to the massive confines of an Underworld. Bolaño, whose books rarely grew to more than 200 pages, whose books, when they did grow larger than that, tended to do so by piecing together smaller, self-contained sections, seems at times unable in 2666 to distinguish the necessary from the ornamental, or worse, the banal. His 2666 was originally conceived as five connected novellas, and those distinctions have been maintained in the final product, but none of the "novellas" of which 2666 is comprised reach the clean perfection of a By Night in Chile. 2666 is a different beast, a purposeful mess whose best section positively revels in carnage and chaos. But over the course of 900 pages, this approach yields mixed results. Considering the circumstances of its publication and its sheer mass, 2666 reaches us as Bolaño's most striking, his most anticipated book, but in the horserace that his works will undoubtedly run in the years and decades to come, my money rests confidently on The Savage Detectives.

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Interview with César Aira

Francisco Ángeles (La Nacion - Argentina) interviews César Aira.

-¿Has pensado alguna vez que es muy complicado seguirte? Debe de ser muy difícil que te encuentres con alguien que haya leído tu obra completa, ¿no?

-Hay algunos que han tomado esa actitud un poco de coleccionista. Yo he editado en muchísimas editoriales. En la Argentina han proliferado estos últimos años pequeñas editoriales independientes que son mi terreno de juegos, mi playground favorito. Prefiero publicar con estos pequeños editores que suelen ser gente joven; algunas editoriales son unipersonales. Hoy en día los medios técnicos permiten hacer un libro con cierta facilidad, y toda editorial nueva que aparece en Buenos Aires o alrededores se inaugura con un libro mío, porque yo siempre estoy disponible. Me encanta porque me da una gran libertad. En general, a estos jóvenes les gusta lo que hago, y si yo estornudara, publicarían un estornudo mío. Sé que puedo darles cualquier cosa, puedo "subir la apuesta", digamos.

-Tienes una imagen de escritor hermético, no sé si difícil. Dicen que no te gustan las entrevistas.

-En la Argentina no doy entrevistas. Por supuesto, cuando empecé a publicar daba entrevistas a todos los que me la pedían, pero llegó un momento en que hubo demasiadas, y me di cuenta de que me absorbía mucho. Era algo que competía con mi trabajo propiamente dicho. En nuestro pequeño mundo todos se conocen y si le doy una entrevista a uno, va a venir otro a decirme "¿Por qué a él sí y a mí no?"

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Martin Solares: Les Minutes Noires (Los Minutos Negros)

Gérard Meudal reviews Martin Solares' Les Minutes Noires (Los Minutos Negros)

On raconte que B. Traven, ce mystérieux écrivain allemand exilé au Mexique, aurait participé en 1947 sous une fausse identité au tournage du Trésor de la Sierra Madre, le film adapté de son roman par John Huston.

C'est l'une des figures tutélaires qui hantent l'étrange histoire racontée par Martin Solares dans Les Minutes noires. Un récit où l'on croise, pêle-mêle, un Père jésuite en délicatesse avec son évêque, plusieurs bandes rivales de narcotrafiquants, un Grizzli et un Chacal, le "Sherlock Holmes mexicain", qui s'agace toujours d'être comparé à un boniment littéraire, lui qui a arrêté le faussaire de Tampico et identifié l'assassin de Trotski, un fantôme qui vient se pencher sur l'auteur pour lui murmurer à l'oreille "pas vrai que dans la vie de chaque homme il y a cinq minutes noires ?", quelques hommes d'affaires véreux et même un extraterrestre qui ne serait autre que le roi des martiens. Ils sont si nombreux qu'il a fallu en dresser la liste en préambule comme dans une pièce de théâtre, et dans cet inventaire hétéroclite, on trouve même un élément totalement inattendu : un policier honnête.

Martin Solares reprend les codes et les situations d'une intrigue policière classique pour créer un univers où le lecteur est constamment placé sur une frontière fluctuante entre rêve et réalité, entre la fiction et l'authentique violence des faits. Dans la ville portuaire de Paracuan, Etat de Tamaulipas, un tueur en série a assassiné plusieurs fillettes.

L'enquête est rondement menée par la police locale, dont les méthodes sont d'une efficacité redoutable. Elles consistent à arrêter le premier venu et à l'inculper au mépris des preuves les plus évidentes, non par simple laxisme mais pour protéger le véritable coupable qui bénéficie de toutes sortes de protections. Quelques années plus tard, un journaliste vient déterrer cette histoire et, comme il se doit, est rapidement assassiné.

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Jorge Volpi: Le Jardin Dévasté (El Jardin Devastado)

Florence Noiville reviews Jorge Volpi's Le Jardin Dévasté (El Jardin Devastado)

Dans les essais littéraires qu'il vient de publier en espagnol, Mentidas contajosas (Mensonges contagieux), Volpi s'amuse en effet à brouiller les lignes en mêlant l'essai à l'invention. De même dans Le Jardin dévasté, son dernier opus traduit en français, qu'il décrit comme une "mosaïque de roman, d'aphorismes et d'autobiographie".

Le livre s'ouvre sur un décompte macabre, celui des victimes en Irak. "Hier, soixante-sept. Aujourd'hui, "au cours d'une des journées les plus violentes", cent huit. (...) Nous entrevoyons les chiffres - sérénité de l'arithmétique - en avalant une cuillerée de yaourt ou en somnolant." Le narrateur, un double de Volpi, doit écrire un article : mille dollars pour 15 pages, avec un abstract, des notes en bas de page, une bibliographie...

Un abstract sur la guerre d'Irak ! Tout ça lui semble si dérisoire. Lui-même n'est-il pas caricatural ? "J'ai passé plus de quinze ans reclus dans la docte indifférence de la spécialisation : Emory, Cornell, Harvard. Là, j'ai échappé au temps, cumulé femmes et abandons, remâché mon écoeurement dans quelques articles et ouvrages d'analyse politique."

Au portrait de ce narrateur qui lui ressemble, Volpi oppose l'aventure de Leïla, une jeune Irakienne qui vient de perdre son mari et sa fille et décide de partir seule, sur leurs traces, de Mossoul à Kirkouk. Peu à peu, l'abstract va se transformer en roman. Un texte personnel aux accents sincères sinon naïfs, où Volpi raconte le périple de Leïla et dit sa désespérance sourde devant la détresse de cette jeune femme.

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Saturday, March 07, 2009

César Aira: Ghosts

Natasha Wimmer reviews César Aira's Ghosts

The Argentine novelist César Aira is the Duchamp of Latin American literature, a light-footed experimentalist who follows a credo of improvisation and constant forward motion, plotting as he goes and turning out at least two short novels a year. His agenda is subversive, but his brutal humor and off-kilter sense of beauty make his stories slip down like spiked cream puffs. The violent culinary imagery is apt: this is a writer who drowns characters in vats of strawberry ice cream (in the surreally autobiographical "How I Became a Nun"). As Roberto Bolaño, his contemporary, said, "Once you've read Aira, you want to keep reading Aira."

"Ghosts," the latest installment in Aira's project, is an exercise in queasiness, a heady, vertigo-inducing fantasia. Set on the roof of a half-finished luxury apartment building in Buenos Aires, it takes place over the course of a single day. On a New Year's Eve morning of "high childishness," the future owners of the apartments visit the construction site, wandering from room to room. Most of the walls are up, but there are no doors or windows or flooring, and the raw strangeness of naked concrete is the first warning that the reader has entered Aira's makeshift universe.

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Thursday, March 05, 2009

Interview with Carlos Fuentes

Le Figaro interviews Carlos Fuentes

LE FIGARO. - Le 11 mars, vous donnerez une conférence à la Bibliothèque nationale de Paris sur la littérature latino-américaine. A-t-elle beaucoup évolué en un demi-siècle ?

Carlos FUENTES. - Elle a énormément changé. À mes débuts, il n'y avait presque pas de romanciers. Un grand critique a dit un jour : « L'Amérique latine, c'est un roman sans romancier. » Puis il y a eu la parole avec Pablo Neruda ; le premier romancier fut Alejo Carpentier, suivi de Borges, Asturias. Enfin est arrivé le « Boom », un mouvement littéraire de douze personnes dont Garcia Marquez, Cortazar, Vargas Llosa... Aujourd'hui, il y a une centaine de bons écrivains dans toute l'Amérique latine.

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Leonardo Padura's Top Ten

Leonardo Padura shows here he's Cuban novel Top Ten.

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Monday, March 02, 2009


Satanás was written and directed by Andrés Baiz and based on the novel "Satanás" by Colombian writer Mario Mendoza.

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António Lobo Antunes: The Fat Man and Infinity: And Other Writings

Babara Fisher reviews António Lobo Antunes' The Fat Man and Infinity: And Other Writings

António Lobo Antunes, one of Portugal's most esteemed novelists, for many years published short pieces of memoir, reflection, and fiction in weekly or biweekly columns in Portuguese newspapers. Collected here are a selection of autobiographical pieces that focus on his pampered childhood and fictions that focus on a variety of dismal or damaged lives.

The autobiographical pieces are both sweetly nostalgic and slyly self-mocking. Antunes recognized his calling to be a writer at an early age, sacrificing his career as an ice-hockey player and abandoning his dream to become Spider-Man to fulfill his artistic destiny. One piece, titled "Old Age," concludes, "I'm not an elderly man with the heart of a child. I'm a child whose envelope has grown slightly worn."

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Junot Díaz: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Lesley McDowell reviews Junot Díaz' The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

With this startling, breathless, sweetly harsh debut novel, Junot Díaz, a justifiable Pulitzer Prize winner, has managed to portray both the particularity of the inner life of a Dominican teenage boy in contemporary New Jersey, as well as draw universal conclusions about men and women, race and class.

We first meet Oscar when he is a plump little boy, loved by the girls to such an extent that they fight over him. Fast forward to his adolescence, and girls are fighting to get away from him. Oscar's isolation is compounded by his innate geekiness, his love of genre fiction, his dragon of a mother and his counter-culture sister. His mother might fit the stereotype of the fierce Latin-American mother who brings up her kids alone and works her fingers to the bone in underpaid, menial jobs to do it, but everything else about Oscar's story eschews easy assumptions.
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Monday, February 23, 2009

António Lobo Antunes: The Fat Man and Infinity and Other Writings

Dwight Garner reviews António Lobo Antunes' The Fat Man and Infinity and Other Writings.

Writing last year in The Nation, Natasha Wimmer, the gifted young translator of Roberto Bolaño's major novels into English, described the rivalry between the Portuguese novelists José Saramago and António Lobo Antunes. When Saramago won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1998, Ms. Wimmer wrote, "there were those who believed that the wrong writer had been chosen."

One of those people may have been Mr. Antunes. In 1998, when a reporter for The New York Times called him for a comment about Saramago's Nobel, Mr. Antunes said, "This phone doesn't work!" and cut the connection.

Mr. Saramago, born in 1922, and Mr. Antunes, born in 1942, are not easily confused on the page. Mr. Saramago's style is spare and allegorical. His best novels, like "Blindness" (1998), build like ticking cerebral thrillers. Mr. Antunes's work, on the other hand, is chaotic and jagged, in a style that can be reminiscent of Faulkner's.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Luis Sepúlveda

Chilean novelist Luis Sepúlveda won the 13th Edition of the Premio Primavera de Novela (Spain) with a prize value of 200.000 Euro.
More details in El País.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

António Lobo Antunes

Portuguese writer António Lobo Antunes announced in an interview that in two years he will stop writing.
After his new book "Que Cavalos São Aqueles Que Fazem Sombra no Mar?" to be released this year and another one, Lobo Antunes intends to put an end to his career.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Roberto Bolaño: 2666

Stephen Abell reviews Roberto Bolaño's 2666

The first temptation might be to dismiss this wondrous novel as no more than cult fiction. It certainly has plenty of those qualities associated with cult status: it is posthumous, unfinished, written in a foreign language, postmodern, ultra-violent, dauntingly long, mysteriously (perhaps even meaninglessly) titled. And Roberto Bolaño, the Chilean author who died in 2003, is a suitably romantic figurehead, having turned to the "dangerous calling" of writing fiction late in life in order to support his family (and avoid penury from his poetry).

But 2666 is a major literary event. It is a supernovel comprising five sections, each capable of standing alone (as was Bolaño's original idea, with one eye on the increased sales that would accrue). The first is the tale of four literary critics, who join together in search of a mysterious German writer called Benno von Archimboldi. Their search leads them to Santa Teresa, a city in northern Mexico, where they are entertained by the local intelligentsia (including a strange professor called Amalfitano, who hangs a geometry book outside his home so the wind could "see whether there was anything in it that might be of use") and learn that hundreds of women have been murdered in the region over the last few years. The second part is an odd account of Amalfitano and his apparent nervous breakdown. The third focuses on an African-American writer called Quincy Williams, known to everyone as "Fate", who is sent to Santa Teresa to cover a boxing match.

The fourth section focuses in disturbing detail on the rapes and murders of the women (the effect, a combination of what might be called shock and bore). In pulpish paragraphs, it describes the remains of each victim ("the blows she'd received had destroyed her spleen") and the police's desultory attempts to find the person responsible. One suspect is a giant German named Klaus Haas, who could be, but probably is not, Archimboldi.. In the final part, we learn of Archimboldi's life as a German soldier in the Second World War and then as a writer wandering around the Mediterranean.

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Bernardo Atxaga: The Accordionist’s Son

Jascha Hoffman reviews Bernardo Atxaga's "The Accordionist's Son"

The Basque novelist Bernardo At­xaga has spent his career moving between fairy tales and terrorism. His early works were set in the mythical Spanish town of Obaba, where birds, squirrels and snakes could speak. Later he turned out gritty novels about men and women backed into corners by their entanglement with the Basque separatist movement. These two worlds converge in "The Accordionist's Son," a sprawling novel about the legacy of civil war in Spain that borrows characters from Atxaga's previous works but does not have quite the same charm and power.

Stretching across most of the 20th century, the novel is framed as the memoir of David Imaz, a Basque exile. Dying on a ranch in Northern California in 1999, he steals away from his American family each night to document his early life in his native language. We learn he was raised in the peaceful town of Obaba, not far from Guernica, with only a dim awareness of the civil war that ended a decade before he was born. As a teenager he discovers a list of Republican sympathizers executed on behalf of the Franco regime in 1937. It is in his father's hand.

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Friday, February 13, 2009

Antonio Muñoz Molina: A Manuscript Of Ashes

Colin Fleming reviews Antonio Muñoz Molina's A Manuscript Of Ashes

Riddle, sham, requiem, detective story - Antonio Muñoz Molina's novel "A Manuscript of Ashes" is one nasty revenge tale, bound to trip up readers as mercilessly as it flogs its characters. Simply, this is an exercise in psychological horror, a study of how far one man and his accomplice will go to crush the literary ideals of another - for sport, spite and inspiration.

The story begins in a darkened bedroom, in Mágina, Spain, where an unknown first-person narrator commands his lover, Inés, to leave. We have no idea who this narrator is, nor will we until 300 pages later, after he has made his horrible revelation plain to Minaya, a young man who has come to Mágina to escape the police for his role in the Madrid student protests of 1969. In Mágina, he boards with his uncle, Manuel, under the pretense of writing a dissertation about Jacinto Solana, an agitprop poet who had lived in the house and was later assassinated. Both Solana and Manuel were in love with Mariana, a temptress who married Manuel and was ostensibly killed on her wedding night by a stray bullet from a rooftop exchange of gunfire. Determined to find Solana's lost novel, Minaya instead enters into the role of civilian detective, convincing himself that either his literary hero or his uncle was a murderer.

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