Escape from Elba
Exiles of the New York Times
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Author Topic: Latin American Literature  (Read 9821 times)
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mringel
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« Reply #1185 on: June 01, 2008, 01:29:02 PM »

Beppo,
This is what I can say now about The Night in Chile:
It is interesting Bolaño decided to have a priest, Sebastián Urrutia Lacroix, as the main charcadter. Politics, literature and church are mixed.
Bolaño deploys an unreliable narrator in a stream-of-consciousness (except for the last sentence, the whole book is a single paragraph) style.
The first sentences of this book are:
"I am dying now, but I still have many things to say. I used to be at peace with myself. Quiet and at peace. But it all blew up unexpectedly. That wizened youth is to blame. I was at peace. I am no longer at peace. There are a couple of points that have to be cleared up. So, propped up on one elbow, I will lift my noble, trembling head, and rummage through my memories to turn up the deeds that shall vindicate me and belie the slanderous rumors the wizened youth spread in a single storm-lit night to sully my name. Or so he intended. One has to be responsible, as I have always said. One has a moral obligation to take responsibility for one's actions, and that includes one's words and silences, yes, one's silences, because silences rise to heaven too, and God hears them, and only God understands and judges them, so one must be very careful with one's silences. I am responsible in every way. My silences are immaculate. Let me make that clear. Clear to God above all. The rest I can forget, but not God. I don't know how I got on to this. Sometimes I find myself propped up on one elbow, rambling on and dreaming and trying to make peace with myself."

The young who got older is a kind of an oxymoron. Responsibility for the silences is a very interesting issue in any society…in my opinion…
 
Urrutia main goal calling was not to serve god, but to reveal his poet and literary critic. He meets his friend "Farewell," the name he gave to a wealthy Chilean writer. It was there that he met Pablo Neruda, the greatest poet in Chilean history and a life-long Communist.
Urrutia is called to give lessons in Marxism to the junta that they'll know who their enemy is. The scenes where he is a teacher of something he does not believe in is described in an irony eye of the author. No one really care that he teaches Marxism, a complete indifference.
They all learned the "Basic Elements of Historical Materialism" and were not really interested in the whole story of Marxism…
Most writers of that time read a booklet about Marxism: Marquez, Amado, Saramago, Nerruda and many more. They described themselves as communists as a kind of a trend, if one can use this word in this context.
It is a novel in which what is not being said stronger than the revealed, and most of what is said is also hidden. The horrify scene is described in the last 20 pages in which the hero finds out that in the basement of the Elite there is a collaboration with the military regime crimes. The torture of innocent people is being held protected by the literary salons.
"If Maria Canales knew what her husband was doing in the basement, why did she invite guests to her house? Because, normally, when she had a soiree, the basement was unoccupied. I asked myself the following question: Why then, on that particular night, did a guest who lost his way find that poor man? The answer was simple: Because with time, vigilance tends to relax, because all horrors are dulled by routine. I asked myself the following question: Why didn't anyone say anything at the time? The answer was simple: Because they were afraid. I was not afraid. I would have been able to speak out but I didn't see anything, I didn't know until it was too late".

What is so amazing is the fact that this novella succeeded to deal with so many issues and does not seem superficial. Chile is the real hero of this book, with its culture, its diseases, when to keep silent and when to talk. What are the consequences of the political events on the sol of the writers, poets and artists? In fact, Urrutia ignored it all and is quite self concerned.
The mission he was sent to the churches in Europe is an interesting issue also. The 2 men who sent him and their names: Oido and Odeim – anagrams of the words: oido – hatred and miedo- fear.
Fear and hatred are the motives of this mission. Fear and hatred are the motives to all military revolutions. These are what the revolutionists plant to destroy a country. Fear and hatred are the signs of dictatorship.
One of the paragraphs which made me laugh was the one about the question: what did and do the presidents and leaders of Chile read? – Nothing! Revistas, (journals), shallowness of culture!
 
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Beppo
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« Reply #1186 on: June 01, 2008, 06:49:59 PM »

Mringel - the priest's silences are less than immaculate when compared with those of the Guatemalan painter. And what about the curiosity that is the shoemaker, "a merchant who made a fortune importing shoes from somewhere and selling them somewhere else"? What's the join between the morbid Guatemalan painter and the Austro-Hungarian shoemaker that allows the author to move effortlessly from one page to the other, without hardly a breath, other than the comment ascribed to Farewell that "...the literature of heroism was...so vast that two people with diametrically opposed tastes and ideas could dip into it at random without any likelihood of hitting on the same thing"?

And who is Ernst Jünger and what's he doing in the painter's apartment?

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mringel
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« Reply #1187 on: June 02, 2008, 09:23:39 AM »

Beppo,
Google Ernest Juger and you'll find out who he was.
Here is a link:
http://www.firstworldwar.com/poetsandprose/junger.htm
He mentioned in one of his essays Don Salvador Reyes, the Chilean author, who, according to Bolano was never really read in Chile and outside.
Both of them: Junger and Reyes meet at the Guatemalan painter.
The painter who is anorexic and yes, his silences are stronger than those of the priest.
He paints a picture and gave it the title: Mexico City one hour before sunrise.
He said he was only one week in Mexico and he painted the picture in Paris. 
What does this want to say about art, I wonder….
The story of the shoemaker "a merchant who made a fortune importing shoes from somewhere and selling them somewhere else" is very symbolic and I still wonder with myself what this story means.
The megalomania of a man who seems to have a humanistic idea and persuade the emperor that it is a great idea.
This episode of the shoemaker at the emperor court reminds me of a short story by Kafka : the message of an emperor
The absurdity of the way until the simple man succeeds to meet the emperor is described with such an irony in Kafka's story and in Bolano.
And then, what is "the message"? is there a message?
Also in Kafka story the messenger is the only one who heard what the emperor whispered in his ears. Bolano tells the same story: the emperor whispered in the ears of the shoemaker and no one really knows what he said. All we know is that all the audience attending this meeting said: Hora, hora….and the shoemaker went to his way pretty sure that the emperor agreed with the idea and will give him the support he needs in order to fulfill his idea.
At the end, when the soviet tanks came into the town and they found the body of the shoemaker lying on a stone and no cemetery and no museum was ever built.
What do you think?
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mringel
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« Reply #1188 on: June 02, 2008, 09:26:49 AM »

Beppo
Here is a link to Kafka's story
http://records.viu.ca/~Johnstoi/kafka/imperialmessage.htm
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nnyhav
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« Reply #1189 on: June 04, 2008, 11:08:03 PM »

Roberto Bolaño's acceptance of the '99 Rómulo Gallegos prize for The Savage Detectives:

http://canopycanopycanopy.com/2/the_caracas_speech
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Beppo
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« Reply #1190 on: June 10, 2008, 05:27:47 PM »

Miriam

I think you're right where the Kafka link is concerned. Looks like the shoemaker was perhaps promised some things that never transpired. It reminds me of that other short by Kafka - "Before The Law". A message that cannot arrive but is most assuredly on its way. It's quite difficult to separate anything in this short book from that torture scene in the basement.

I'm still reading The Gift by Nabokov - had a moment the other day that reminded me, in some way, of one of the things on the list you posted previously: the right to mistake a book for real life. I've been really enjoying The Gift - I'm reading it mostly at lunchtime, in a busy kitchen/lunching area. Well, the other day, I was driving across the city in which I live and having stopped at traffic lights I looked up to my left and there was a street sign bearing the name Agamemnon Street. Having never heard of this street before I reflected in some way (who Agamemnon was etc.,) and then drove off. I may well have commiserated myself on my interrupted reading of The Iliad a while back and that maybe was that. A couple of days later (or was it the next day) I'm reading my usual few pages of The Gift and then, amidst the chatter, my eyes rolled across the page to the word Agamemnonstrasse. The poet of the novel discovers that his time has come in his current rented abode and has to up sticks and move on to a new place, the new place being a room in a house on Agamemnonstrasse (1920's Berlin). I allowed myself a smile but it seems that's that. It made me check some things out in the hope that, in the words of Fyodor, the coincidence may have had one more stage, and who knows it might have yet: but I doubt it. Nonetheless, it was a little lunchtime high. And it brought back memories of visiting Berlin...

ps. I struggled to get into both By Night in Chile and Blindness simply because I'd read them a while back and struggled in the department of motivation to read them again, what with so may books nodding at me from my bookshelf. But I haven't read The Savage Detectives and what with 2666 scheduled for release later this year it would be a good one for the summer* perhaps...

I'm still struggling to get the Fuentes book. 

* /winter, depending on location...

 
 
« Last Edit: June 10, 2008, 06:19:47 PM by Beppo » Logged
mringel
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« Reply #1191 on: June 11, 2008, 02:38:47 AM »

Beppo,
I really hope that during summer (in Argentina it will be winter...) we'll be able to have a new good discussion here.
I am reading now the book by the Cuban Reinaldo Arenas - Before the night falls.
It is an autobiography this exceptional writer wrote and he is making a long accounting with Fidel Castro and his regime which persecute him for being a homosexual and for being anti the revolution.
It is a book which you read breathless and if you ignore the too many descriptions of his sexual life, you reveal the sad intelligent, talented poor man whose life was a long sad journey.
A few months ago I read the biography of Castro, written only to praise him and it is not an objective story of life… reading Arenas book I can understand things I've read before and were not so sharp as in this book.
What is very interesting for me is the relationship between Arenas and Alejo Carpentier. Arenas despise Carpentier for renouncing his writing and give his voice to Castro… Carpentier was in the committee in which he opposed against giving Arenas a prize… so this rival is well understood. But reading TLS I loved AC poetic writing. I thing that some of his other books are too politics for me.

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elportenito1
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« Reply #1192 on: June 16, 2008, 10:00:26 AM »

martinbeck3: What's going on, Martin?....juer ar iu? It can't be the work that keeps you away. Mid life crissis?...you've got a lover?....something is keeping you away from reading......I know, no it can't be Mexican tv soapies..
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nnyhav
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« Reply #1193 on: June 18, 2008, 07:10:31 PM »

Dirty War, ongoing battles:
http://www.bostonreview.net/BR33.3/ferguson.php
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nnyhav
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« Reply #1194 on: June 19, 2008, 10:50:11 PM »

a collector of reviews, essays and such, something like a 3QD for the topic:
SPLALit - Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Literature and Culture
http://splalit.blogspot.com/
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mringel
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« Reply #1195 on: June 25, 2008, 08:13:14 AM »

Dear friends,
If we will not discuss anything here, this forum will simply die!!!
Pity!!
Soon the Monograph I wrote upon Saramago is going to be published!!!
I am so happy that I am going to give birth to the baby I carried for 10 years!!!
Miriam
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Beppo
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« Reply #1196 on: June 25, 2008, 08:18:18 AM »

Hi Miriam - that's good news - well done.

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