Sunday 1 July 2012

Spanish Lit Month - Plans and "Five from the Archive"

 Spanish Lit Month
 Today is the first day of Spanish Literature Month, hosted by Richard @ Caravana de Recuerdos and Stu @ Winstonsdad's Blog. Auspiciously, they have selected the day when Spain could become the first team to win three major international tournaments in a row. They both have myriad suggestions for reading and there are also "three planned group events scheduled: a discussion of Carlos Saura's 1976 film Cría cuervos this coming weekend, a group read of Juan Carlos Onetti's 1950 La vida breve [A Brief Life] the following weekend, and a group read of Enrique Vila-Matas' 2001 Bartleby y compañía [Bartleby & Co.] the weekend after that."

I have, on top of these read Carlos Ruiz Zafon's Shadow of the Wind and am reading Jorge Volpi's In Search of Klingsor. I am hoping to get posts on both of these up during the month.

To kick things off I decided to borrow a leaf from Lizzy's Literary Life and post Five from the Archive, a selection of five past posts on Spanish Lit books. The titles link to the original posts from which the quotes come.

Pedro Páramo - Juan Rulfo (Translated by Lysander Kemp)
This is a strange and intriguing book. On one level this is the story of an immoral, Macchievellian ranch owner which could form the basis for a Sergio Leone film. On another it is a Mexican The Waste Land, with a vertiginous chorus from beyond the grave whispering parts of their stories into our ears as the wind blows the dust through the empty landscape or the rain turns the dust into mud.

Nazi Literature in the Americas - Roberto Bolano
An imaginary encyclopedia of literary losers who tend to fly in circles as they have only got right wings Nazi Literature in the Americas is both a humorous parlour game and a howl of disgust. Lying at its heart are the fascist regimes and disappearances that blighted South America over the course of Bolano's life. There is also a sense, which grows in it's absence, of the importance of literature, that evil needs it's apologists in order to flourish.
Bad Nature, or With Elvis in Mexico - Javier Marias

Hanging out with Elvis was a tiring experience because 'his endurance was incomparable, a man in a perpetual state of explosion." Late night flights from Acupulco to Mexico City led to tequila, dancefloors, whitewashed gangsters, handkerchief wars and much besides.
To find out what is hiding behind that 'much besides' you should read this book. It won't take long as this books hovers between being a long short story or a short novella.

The Savage Detectives - Roberto Bolaño
The book is in its way, as much a duel with the novel as a novel. Shattering the narrative into splinters the book consists of bookends from the p.o.v. of young student and aspiring poet Juan García Madero but the far longer middle section consists of pieces of various length from the viewpoint of many characters. 

Upside Down, a Primer for The Looking-Glass World, by Eduardo Galeano
This is a wise and wonderful work full of the most quotable quotes. Shaped like a school primer and written from a  Latin American center of gravity 'Upside Down' takes us on a funfair ride through consumer culture, asking as he goes if anyone is really served by it.


  1. I chickened out on doing my own archival style recommendations, Séamus, but The Savage Detectives was one of the three or four novels I was going to mention before I deleted that part of my post. I wish everybody would give that book a try (of course, Bolaño's 2666 and Nazi Literature in the Americas are other standouts as well). Of your other choices, I love Marías in general (though I haven't read the Elvis piece), love that Rulfo, and have heard only good things about Galeano--so thanks for sharing your reading choices on Day One of the event. Kind of conflicted about today's game, though: Spain and Italy are two of my favorite teams after Argentina. Should be a great match anyway!

    1. Well Richard, it was easy enough for me to pick out five considering I didn't have many more posts on Spanish Lit. It would be a lot more difficult for you.

      As for the match, at this stage (2nd half) an Italian win would have to mean an incredible finish! But I also like both teams.

  2. I loved savage detective even more than 2666 ,look forward to your thought on shadow of the wind I really liked it and if I get chance and can get my hands on hope to do his new book this month ,all the best stu

    1. Stu, I enjoyed Shadow and hope to find time to assemble a post this week. I saw the follow up and was tempted to buy it but resisted.

  3. Loved your choice recommendations, Séamus. Galeano is the one only new to me. Looking forward to your posts this month.

    1. Well, considering that you were responsible for leading me to some of these books it's not surprising that you know them! The Galeano is great and I plan to read his Memory of Fire trilogy sometime.