Bon voyage!

I haven’t read for a long time. I mean, between my work, boyfriend and dog, I hardly find the time to sit alone for a quiet read. Even though I commute for 3 hours every day, in the morning I’m too sleepy and in the evening I’m way too tired to enjoy a good book. I also take the morning train with a friend so I’m practially never alone. Today I took advantage of the fact that my friend missed his train so I took out my Hermann Hesse’s old copy of Kurgast (En el balneario in Spanish, my boyfriend had chosen to get the Spanish translation and not the English, even better for me, that way I get to read more in Spanish). For thirty minutes, I was so intensely delved into the philosophical thoughts of Hesse that I lost sense of space and time. It brought back the pleasure of disconnecting from everything around me. I guess that is what I was afraid of. Being alone and taking the time to roam inside my head. We never do that. I never do that. Always obsessed with the frenzy of trivial information travelling at the speed of light, so that we are kind of afraid of withdrawing from the outer shell of superficiality and dive into the depths of our selves. I must confess that I was so shaken by this moment of morning epiphany that I went to a bookstore in the station, while waiting for the next train to go to work, and started looking at magazines. Suddenly, I felt an urge to buy one, in case I finished the book early, or two, in case I got bored reading in just one language, then I ended up taking three so that I would have enough material to read for the whole day, maybe the whole week. Upon paying my three magazines, with Hermann Hesse’s book under my armpit, the cashier said to me: “Buen viaje”. She thought I was going on a long trip, otherwise, why would I buy that many magazines? I smiled to myself and thought, well I am travelling.. inwards.

Panorámico

Mohamed Chukri: El pan a secas

cubierta_diario.inddUna descripción muy cruda de la pobreza en el Rif de Marruecos, una zona abandonada a su suerte, que no permite dignidad a sus habitantes ni siquiera les proporciona el pan diario. En este relato autobiográfico Chukri nos lleva a sus recuerdos de adolescencia más dulces, como cuando se escondía para ver a su vecina ducharse, pero también a sus momentos más duros de estar días sin comer y recibiendo palizas de su padre tirano. Destaca la intensidad de los sucesos en este recorrido de la vida de un rifeño, donde se mezcla la inocencia con la salvajidad, donde el ser humano vive según sus propias leyes y se moldea por las circunstancias que le rodean. Imposible ser civilizado y honesto en un entorno de prostitutas, ladrones y maltratadores. Pero hay que seguir con la esperanza. Cuando uno se da cuenta que el autor aprendió a leer y escribir a los 20 años, uno se replantea cosas… Se lee del tirón, aunque en algún momento hay pasajes que te dejan trastocada. La sencillez del estilo compaginada con la crueldad de la realidad hacen de este libro un retrato honesto de la pobreza, la futilidad humana y la ironía del destino. Una buena introducción a la literatura marroquí contemporánea. Me habría gustado leerlo en árabe para ver si el registro lingüístico adoptado corresponde también a la familiaridad de lo contado.

Mr. A-Z

Steve Erickson: Tours of the Black Clock

Tours of the Black ClockA fusion of present and past, reality and fantasy, time and space. First half is riveting. Steve Erickson made me feel like this is how literature should be done. Words should be metaphorical, events ought to be allegorical. Doesn’t it all sound so much better when it does not evoke familiar things? It is a story of a young man who leaves the island where he grew up to become a boatman after he sees an old man die at his mother’s feet. This is where the book takes a turn and follows the life of this man, who happens to be a writer, named Banning Jainlight. From the United States, the author takes us to Second-world-war-torn Vienna, where we meet Mr. Z., an eccentric client who gets wound up in Jainlight’s book, or rather female character, until she practically makes him change the course of war. History and fiction are interwoven, just like love and vengeance. I found it funny, dark funny not ha ha funny, and mainly confusing, Memento-like confusing. Solid reading, although the second part of the book, and mostly the end becomes too dispersed.

 

Not for the faint hearted

Mark Z. Danielweski: House of Leaves

House of LeavesTo say the least. Content and form finally merge into this paranoid yet beautiful book about a family lost in the inner walls of… a house. A house of leaves. You get sucked into this whirlpool of imagination where the realm of a book is transformed into a physical world that you cannot get out of. Here is cutting to the chase: two parallel, uncoverging yet intertwined stories. First is of a family that moves to a new house, only to discover that its inner architecture is designed in a way that it is bigger from the inside than the outside. Did you hear it right? Yes, apparently, the house is dynamic; its internal corridors and walls get bigger by the minute, while it remains intact on the outside. But how big can it get? Well, in order to find out, the family had to patch an adventurers’ team to probe the house’s secret halls. Not such a good idea, given the fact that there seems to be something haunting inside those walls, a creature, or a monster, or some life waiting to be discovered. Second story is that of a young guy who finds the book of a blind writer where the first story is told. Coincidence much? The rest is magic. Although the two stories do not seem very connected throughout the book, they overlap smoothly. We jump from one to the other without losing the thread. The plot is quite linear for such a novel argument. Besides the narrative in itself, what really kept me enticed was the magnificence of the visual presentation. Instead of your usual manuscript, the writer has gone great lengths to use the space of a book in order to create his own world. By underlining, scratching, changing colors, writing horizontally then vertically, then obliquely, etc., Danielewski manages to innovate a new experience of reading. Footnotes à la David-Foster-Wallace are also used at length to criticize academic works where scholars are willing to use any useless piece of information to support their argument, or offer innocuous data that the reader does not really need. It also shows how much of an interference footnotes are to the reading experience.

The book is a paranoia, an exciting one that you do want to experience, at least in the realm of words.

Insulaire

Michel Houellebecq: La possiblité d’une île

lapossiblitleduneileIl y a des auteurs qui réussissent à créer une thématique dans tous leurs ouvrages. Houellebecq en fait décidément partie. Ses ingrédients favoris: humour cynique, discours islamophobe, réflexions sociopolitiques et religieuses, aventures sexuelles bouillantes. Cette fois, il flirte avec une nouvelle doctrine religieuse qui promettrait la réincarnation de l’homme et serait la véritable planche de salut de l’humanité.

Daniel, comique réussi, qui s’est fait une petite fortune grâce à ses sketches acerbes et drôles à la fois, se voit fasciné par une secte appelée “élohimite” qui se base sur la recherche du plaisir et l’immortalité de l’homme. Peu à peu, il s’engage dans la structure de la secte, arrivant à faire partie de la petite élite entourant son leader, un homme assez bizarre nommé “le prophète”. En parallèle a ses exploits spirituels, Daniel s’engage dans deux grandes histoires d’amour qui constitueraient deux chapitres dans sa vie: Isabelle, rédactrice en chef dans une revue adressée à des jeunes filles, femme mature mais peu encline à se donner aux plaisirs charnels, et Esther, jeune comédienne espagnole, sexy à en mourir mais plutôt réticente à une relation engagée et durable.

Il faudrait que Houellebecq s’investisse dans de nouveaux thèmes, qu’il laisse les chemins battus, et qu’il insuffle un nouveau sang dans ses livres. Il en est grand temps.

SE

Zadie Smith: NW

nwZadie Smith has definitely evolved as a writer, and it’s not always for the better. What started out as a spontaneous and genuine style in White Teeth and On Beauty has developed into a carefully thought-out literary work. In NW, Zadie wants to show the world what kind of author she wants to be and the influences that mark her literary aspirations. My guess is that she no longer wants to be identified as a multicultural writer that tells simple stories about families from different races and backgrounds living in the same place. Well, the plot of NW does not really stand out, since once again, the author sets the story around two girls, Keisha and Leah, ebony and ivory, growing up in Zadie’s beloved Northwest London. Unfortunately, it just didn’t do it for me this time. I was not able to connect with the characters as I did with Irie Jones and Kiki Belsey. I understand that writers like to tap into the details of their city, the memories of their upbringing and the challenges they had to face growing up. I respect that. But to me, Zadie has already dug so deep into the corners of London and the intricacies of a racially mixed society, and offered us the raw gems that are her earlier books: sincere portraits of complicated characters that are trying to find their place in a mosaic of races, religions and beliefs. So where is the added value in NW? Could it be that this time Zadie was finally able to write her ultimate ode to the city she grew up in? But what universal literary value does that confer her? I honestly believe that an author that only writes about familiar entourages and situations lacks imagination. Zadie has found her cozy place in the literary world and has set a flag there. Aware of the lack of a new product, she decided to paint her recent tableau with new colors. Instead of the humoristic intellectual style that I fell in love with before, Zadie decided that it wasn’t enough anymore. So this time she flirts with bits and pieces of post-modernism by trying to fragment her text, rupture the chronological sequence and create a train of disconnected phrases and ideas. It just seems to me that she put a lot of thought in changing the form not the content. If she wanted to emulate her literary inspirations, she could have also injected her text with new blood.

Zadie is on the verge of literary maturity. She wants to be bigger and better, but to do that, she has to let go of her White Teeth.

Simbológicamente hablando

Carl G. Jung: El hombre y sus símbolos

Carl Jung- El hombre y sus símbolosDescubrir a Jung fue, para mí, tan impactante como intuitivo. El hombre y sus símbolos me presentó ideas que ya tenía en mi cabeza, pero que eran difusas y vagas. Conceptos como “sincronicidad”, “arquetipos”, “introvertido” y “extravertido” fueron algunas de las numerosas aportaciones de Jung al campo de la psicología. Amigo (y luego casi enemigo) de Freud, Jung, reconociendo la grandeza de las ideas del padre del psicoanálisis, consideró que éste se concentraba demasiado en la sexualidad, y que tenía una visión algo negativa del inconsciente. A lo largo de su carrera, Jung nunca quiso plasmar sus conocimientos en libros, pero cuando su vida tocaba a su fin, tuvo un sueño donde estaba en una plaza pública, hablando con la gente corriente de sus ideas. Esto fue suficiente para que empezara la labor de vulgarizar sus conceptos y conocimientos psicológicos en un proyecto compartido con otros compañeros y discípulos suyos. En El hombre y sus símbolos, tenemos la psicología de Jung destilada, simple, en su estado más puro. El libro está dividido en cuatro capítulos, de los cuales sólo uno fue escrito por Jung, el que más me interesó. Los otros eran demasiado cultos para mi gusto y algunos se fijaban mucho en los mitos culturales, lo cual no quiere decir que no sean útiles para entender a Jung. Sin embargo, el propio Jung es capaz de presentar conceptos complejos y profundos de la psique humana sin resultar inaccesible, sabe ir al grano.

Una lectura profunda y recomendable para todos. Jung nos enseña la importancia de estar conectados con nuestros instintos básicos que el hombre moderno ha perdido, y de reconocer esta voz interna que a veces intenta decirnos cosas. Sin embargo, él se niega a proponer un método único para interpretar los sueños, ya que está convencido de que cada sueño depende de la experiencia, la edad y la situación psicológica del soñante. Con muchos pacientes a su espalda, Jung afirma que hay que emprender cada sueño como si fuera “nuevo”.