The OF Blog

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Gabriel García Márquez, Cien años de soledad (One Hundred Years of Solitude)

Muchos años después, frente al pelotón de fusilamiento, el coronel Aureliano Buendía había de recordar aquella tarde remota en que su padre lo llevó a conocer el hielo.  Macondo era entonces una aldea de veinte casas de barro y cañabrava construidas a la orilla de un río de aguas diáfanas que se precipitaban por un lecho de piedras pulidas, blancas y enormes como huevos prehistóricos.  El mundo era tan reciente, que muchas cosas carecían de nombre, y para mencionarlas había que señalarlas con el dedo. (p. 81, Catedra edition)
Gabriel García Márquez's 1967 novel, Cien años de soledad (translated into English in 1970 by Gregory Rabassa as One Hundred Years of Solitude), is perhaps one of a handful of 20th century fictions that have had an impact far beyond that of the tens of millions worldwide that have read it over the past 47 years.  Its codification of Colombian (and by extension, Latin American) post-colonial history gave a voice to a region whose literature prior to the mid-20th century had largely been dismissed as provincial, as not worthy of the respect rendered to Western European and North American national literatures.  As the most famous of the "Boom Generation" novels, Cien años de soledad has been quoted by politicians across the globe and has served as an inspiration (and later a point of departure) for two generations of Latin American writers.

Yet the accolades can get in the way of a deeper appreciation for what García Márquez achieved here.  It is too tempting to fall in line with what others have said, often in a gushing, adoring fashion, about this novel.  It could be viewed as being predominantly about X, Y, and Z, without the reader stepping outside of those blurbs and reviews' interpretative schemae.  Useful as these models are for understanding what is transpiring within the novel, especially on the symbolic level, they can rob the reader of that pure joy of what considering what the import of each phrase or sentence might be, even if (especially if?) they are ignorant of much of the allusions, historical and literary alike, that García Márquez makes.  Sometimes it can be best for the reader to experience them like the early inhabitants of the fictional town of Macondo do in the passage quoted above, as if they were in a world that "was so recent that many things lacked names and in order to mention them you had to point at them with a finger. (translation my own)"  There is much to discover within the world of Macondo, the city of mirrors, that sometimes it behooves the reader to wander through its pages, piecing together, as six generations of Buendías attempt to do, the clues embedded within this rich text.

Cien años de soledad covers seven generations of the Buendía family, first introduced in García Márquez's earlier novels.  It is here in this novel, however, that nascent themes from those earlier novels mature and bear bittersweet fruit.  Ranging from the immediate post-colonial period of the mid-19th century to the mid-20th century, Macondo and its founding family incorporates much of Colombia's conflicted, troubled past.  In the cycle of the boisterous Arcadios and the brooding Aurelianos can be seen a symbolic tale of passion and greed, of pride and sorrow.  The language of the early chapters resembles in many fashions those tales found in the Book of Genesis in that the feats of the early generations seem outsized and otherworldly, creating a sense that what is transpiring is irreal and yet intimately and intricately tied to a very real past and present.

Yet these moments of levitating priests and resuscitated gypsies do not detract from the very real events encoded within them.  The section with the house colors foreshadows the rise of strong men and the marking of seventeen bastards with a permanent Ash Wednesday cross symbolizes the connections between belief and violence, between the desire to hold power and the urge to reform.  Time and time again, García Márquez revisits these elements, culminating in the four years, eleven months and two days of rains that follow the massacre of 3000 striking banana plantation workers and the village's subsequent forgetting of their collective fate.  These events echo those of Colombia's violent early 20th century, from the time of the War of a Thousand Days (1899-1902) to that of La violencia of 1948-1958.  A prior knowledge of Colombian history will enhance a reader's appreciation for García Márquez's embedding of these events within his Macondo tales, but it is hardly necessary for comprehension and enjoyment of this novel.

Cien años de soledad easily could have been a "political" novel, but its symbolic elements go far beyond references to the past and then-current events, moving more toward a deep, keen look at humanity and our roles as agents of order and change.  Each character represents certain qualities, from the egotistical early Buendías to the forlorn romantics who frequently find understanding but not solace from their frustrated desires.  The various modes of solitude have been addressed at length by others elsewhere, but it certainly lies at the core of this novel.  Each character experiences their own form of solitude, from that of loss of mental capacities, to the laborious making and unmaking of items (many of which tienen vida propria), to unrequited love to love that distances them from outsiders.  These presentations of solitude within the context of a novel in which passion is codified within magical events (like the profusion of butterflies or an afternoon assumption) is so well-realized in their intricacies that it is difficult to skim over even a single line without missing something beautiful and important.

For some, this richness of symbolic, powerful metaphors can be overwhelming, as there is so much packed within the margins of the novel.  Indeed, multiple re-readings may be required to squeeze more from the text.  But the effort is more than worth it, because García Márquez wrote a novel that is at the very least on par with that one of his primary influences, William Faulkner.  In re-reading Cien años de soledad, I found echos of Yoknapatawpha County and its denizens.   There is a kindred spirit between the Southern writer and the Latin American novelist that goes far beyond the literary techniques of stream of consciousness and the use of mythological elements to add depth to a core realist story.  There is a spirit of resilience, of seeing great devastation and despair and using those violent elements to construct tales that speak to their readers on the most intimate terms.  García Márquez's prose is so exquisite, his characterizations so organic and well-developed, that his only major "flaw" may be that he has created a story that defies deeper analysis, because the more one delves into the individual threads that constitute this narrative tapestry, the more one risks missing the wondrous forest for a few fascinating leaves.  Cien años de soledad was the first novel I read in Spanish when I learned the language a decade ago and this re-read only confirmed my positive impressions.  It is one of my all-time five favorite fictions and each re-read has only served to add to my appreciation for what García Márquez accomplished here.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

So apparently some people are impressed with the size of Brandon Sanderson's Words of Radiance...


To those who seem to think that Sanderson's Words of Radiance is huge, I scoff.  Here's a book that is roughly 1.5 times the size of it.  Yes, it's all about Jorge Luis Borges.  Now think about it:  I put a book of diary entries about Borges' comments by his close friend Adolfo Bioy Casares right next to a Brandon Sanderson novel.  Bet there won't be many such comparisons elsewhere.  You're welcome.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Premio Strega shortlist announced

This won't be of much interest to the majority of readers here, but since one of my current reading goals is to read each of the winning novels for the Italian-language Premio Strega, the recent April 11th announcement of the shortlist, with the winner to be announced June 11th, has made me curious about some of the titles here.  Perhaps I'll purchase more than one of them shortly (interesting the ratio of male to female writers in comparison to other major shortlists of the past couple of years):

1.    Non dirmi che hai paura (Feltrinelli) di Giuseppe Catozzella
       Presentato da Giovanna Botteri e Roberto Saviano

2.    Lisario o il piacere infinito delle donne (Mondadori) di Antonella Cilento
       Presentato da Nadia Fusini e Giuseppe Montesano

3.    Bella mia (Elliot) di Donatella Di Pietrantonio
       Presentato da Antonio Debenedetti e Maria Ida Gaeta

4.    unastoria (Coconino Press-Fandango) di Gipi
       Presentato da Nicola Lagioia e Sandro Veronesi

5.    Come fossi solo (Giunti) di Marco Magini
       Presentato da Maria Rosa Cutrufelli e Piero Gelli

6.    Nella casa di vetro (Gaffi) di Giuseppe Munforte
       Presentato da Arnaldo Colasanti e Massimo Raffaeli

7.    La vita in tempo di pace (Ponte alle Grazie) di Francesco Pecoraro
       Presentato da Giuseppe Antonelli e Gabriele Pedullà

8.    La terra del sacerdote (Neri Pozza) di Paolo Piccirillo
       Presentato da Valeria Parrella e Romana Petri

9.    Il desiderio di essere come tutti (Einaudi) di Francesco Piccolo
       Presentato da Paolo Sorrentino e Domenico Starnone

10.  Storia umana e inumana (Bompiani) di Giorgio Pressburger
       Presentato da Gianfranco De Bosio e Sergio Givone

11.  Ovunque, proteggici (nottetempo) di Elisa Ruotolo
       Presentato da Marcello Fois e Dacia Maraini

12.  Il padre infedele (Bompiani) di Antonio Scurati
       Presentato da Umberto Eco e Walter Siti

Sunday, April 20, 2014

A few things happening this week

Might have time later this week to post my review of Gabriel García Márquez's Cien años de soledad/One Hundred Years of Solitude.  I had begun re-reading it a couple of weeks ago, before Gabo's death, and I really would like to have a formal review/appreciation posted sooner rather than later.

Since there are many masochists who like to vote on my occasional blog polls, they will be pleased to know that I did order a copy of Brandon Sanderson's Words of Radiance Saturday and it'll be here on Monday.  I'll re-read the first book first, so it'll be a while, maybe 1-2 weeks, before I sit down to write the review.  Some people just want to see if I'll write something scathing, don't they?  But who knows, I might enjoy it like I did (for the most part) his Mistborn books, so there is that, I suppose.

I'm going to be super busy for the next two weeks because starting in the morning, I am teaching full-time at my teaching position and working weekends (for 14 hours each day) at my second job.  Just in time for state exams, which begin next week.  So yeah, there is that to take care of first, but since I'll be home awake for a few evening hours, I still might manage to squeeze in a variety of posts.

That's about it.  The squirrels are going to be mad at me if I don't try to get six hours of rest now.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The fissuring of "fandoms" and the 2014 Hugo Awards finalists

Earlier this afternoon, the 2014 Hugo Award finalists were announced via Twitter and livestreaming of the announcements from some SF convention or another.  As I followed the announcements on Twitter, it was interesting to seeing the alternations between squeeing (I think that is the word for the juvenile squeaky gasp) and groaning as the categories moved from the lesser-known fan-oriented categories to the fiction categories.  For the most part, I remained unmoved, even when I saw some good people get nominated for their works, because I sensed that the fiction categories would be, in the parlance of certain people in my social circle, a clusterfuck.  And indeed it was a clusterfuck beyond my wildest imagination, as the Best Novel category alone is the epitome of everything that I despise about popular-voted literary awards.

I am more familiar with several category finalists than in years past, so I will have more to say on the lesser categories than in years past.  I will be blunt:  the types of works/people nominated illustrate this perception that many people have had in recent years that SF and its so-called "fandom", never a monolithic entity whatever impression some people might have tried to give, is even more fissured and polarized now than even during contentious points (the 1930s and the red scare aftermath; Vietnam and the 1970s; third and fourth-wave feminism vs. MRAs) during the WorldCon's checkered past.  Some occasional readers, myself being but one, are often left feeling disengaged after the spats have repeated themselves for the nth time.  The stories nominated show signs of bloc voting along the lines of thematic and perhaps socio-political ideologies more than for any literary/storytelling merits that these stories might contain.  When I look at the works/authors that have been nominated that I have read or at least sampled in the past, I am dismayed by lack of scintillating prose or anything that would be more profound than something found in a Dan Brown or Terry Goodkind novel.

Some of this doubtless is due to my own particular tastes as a reader, but some of it falls squarely in the laps of those readers who choose these works.  While I am likely never going to be a voter for these awards, as a critic I do feel that those who do nominate and vote for these awards should take greater responsibility for what is nominated.  Then again, considering how fractious "SF fandom" is, perhaps it is more a matter of LCD works being selected more for their non-offensiveness than for their true challenging of the status quo.  It is disheartening to see certain "progressive" voices praise certain stories for their themes when those so-called "progressive" elements were addressed more forcefully in works published before I was born...before 1974.  When even the "revolutionary" stories are praised mostly for their long-overdue inclusion of "minority" characters/perspectives, when these perspectives were becoming more commonplace in stories written for non-SF/F audiences a generation or two ago, then there is something broken in a literary area where some pride themselves on being "forward-thinking."  The finalists for Best Novel are anything but "forward-looking" in their politics, in their themes, in their characterizations, or in their prose.  Much the same goes for the majority of the Novella and Novelette categories.

What can be done about this?  I perhaps am not the one best-suited to answer this, since I mostly observe from the periphery, reading what strikes my fancy, not esteeming those selected works more or less than what I read elsewhere.  Those who are the finalists for Fan Writer, Fanzine, and Fancast, most of whom are relatively new voices who are in their 20s and 30s, those are the ones who should be pressing harder for something different.  They should not be content to use their platforms just to praise works, but to criticize weaker elements even in the works that they enjoyed.  To them, which do excellent work, I would exhort them to not just "settle" for the "window dressing" of "progressive" elements within a stagnant story/theme, but to demand more, to note that those authors who are daring to do more should take greater chances, even at the risk of losing some readers or even publisher support.

Too often at times like this, SF/F supporters extoll the virtues of their beloved genre(s) by implicitly or even explicitly trying to create false comparisons between this genre and other literary genres.  As a reader of many fictional categories, I tend to scoff at these people, because I look at what is nominated and I think to myself, "these works are as ephemeral as mayflies.  The next generation will hardly glance at them without shuddering."  Some believe that based on some of the nominees in the fan, Campbell, and shorter fiction works, that a newer generation of fans and writers is emerging.  Perhaps that is so.  But what is emerging?  Bland works?  Fictions that look backward too much without saying much that is new?  Stories that want more to be made into movies than those that take greater advantage of the literary medium?  Are these things that readers will want to revisit years from now?

So yes, another iteration of the Hugo Awards has been announced.  Some will find much to enjoy in them and a lot to dislike.  And others wistfully shall find themselves wishing that there was something more than a display of polarization over stories that leave the occasional SF reader feeling cold.  And with this somber comment, here are the finalists (and for full disclosure's sake, two 2012 articles of mine appear in one of the finalists for Best Related Work):


Best Novel (1595 nominating ballots)
  • Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie (Orbit US/Orbit UK) - My review
  • Neptune’s Brood, Charles Stross (Ace / Orbit UK)
  • Parasite, Mira Grant (Orbit US/Orbit UK)
  • Warbound, Book III of the Grimnoir Chronicles, Larry Correia (Baen Books)
  • The Wheel of Time, Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (Tor Books) - My reviews
Best Novella (847 nominating ballots)
  • The Butcher of Khardov, Dan Wells (Privateer Press)
  • “The Chaplain’s Legacy”, Brad Torgersen (Analog, Jul-Aug 2013)
  • “Equoid”, Charles Stross (Tor.com, 09-2013)
  • Six-Gun Snow White, Catherynne M. Valente (Subterranean Press)
  • “Wakulla Springs”, Andy Duncan and Ellen Klages (Tor.com, 10-2013)
Best Novelette (728 nominating ballots)
  • “Opera Vita Aeterna”, Vox Day (The Last Witchking, Marcher Lord Hinterlands)
  • “The Exchange Officers”, Brad Torgersen (Analog, Jan-Feb 2013)
  • “The Lady Astronaut of Mars”, Mary Robinette Kowal (maryrobinettekowal.com/Tor.com, 09-2013)
  • “The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling”, Ted Chiang (Subterranean, Fall 2013)
  • “The Waiting Stars”, Aliette de Bodard (The Other Half of the Sky, Candlemark & Gleam)
Best Short Story (865 nominating ballots)
  • “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love”, Rachel Swirsky (Apex Magazine, Mar-2013)
  • “The Ink Readers of Doi Saket”, Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Tor.com, 04-2013)
  • “Selkie Stories Are for Losers”, Sofia Samatar (Strange Horizons, Jan-2013)
  • “The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere”, John Chu (Tor.com, 02-2013)
Note: Category had only 4 nominees due to the minimum 5% requirement of Section 3.8.5 of the WSFS constitution.

Best Related Work (752 nominating ballots)
  • Queers Dig Time Lords: A Celebration of Doctor Who by the LGBTQ Fans Who Love It, Edited by Sigrid Ellis & Michael Damian Thomas (Mad Norwegian Press)
  • Speculative Fiction 2012: The Best Online Reviews, Essays and Commentary, Justin Landon & Jared Shurin (Jurassic London) - here's where my articles appear.
  • “We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative”, Kameron Hurley (A Dribble of Ink)
  • Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction, Jeff VanderMeer, with Jeremy Zerfoss (Abrams Image) - Need to finish reading it, but it's a book I'd highly recommend to others.
  • Writing Excuses Season 8, Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler, and Jordan Sanderson
Best Graphic Story (552 nominating ballots)
  • Girl Genius, Volume 13: Agatha Heterodyne & The Sleeping City, written by Phil and Kaja Foglio; art by Phil Foglio; colors by Cheyenne Wright (Airship Entertainment)
  • “The Girl Who Loved Doctor Who”, written by Paul Cornell, illustrated by Jimmy Broxton (Doctor Who Special 2013, IDW)
  • The Meathouse Man, adapted from the story by George R.R. Martin and illustrated by Raya Golden (Jet City Comics)
  • Saga, Volume 2, written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples (Image Comics )
  • “Time”, Randall Munroe (XKCD)
Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form (995 nominating ballots)
  • Frozen,screenplay by Jennifer Lee, directed by Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee (Walt Disney Studios)
  • Gravity, written by Alfonso Cuarón & Jonás Cuarón, directed by Alfonso Cuarón (Esperanto Filmoj; Heyday Films; Warner Bros.)
  • The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, screenplay by Simon Beaufoy & Michael Arndt, directed by Francis Lawrence (Color Force; Lionsgate)
  • Iron Man 3, screenplay by Drew Pearce & Shane Black, directed by Shane Black (Marvel Studios; DMG Entertainment; Paramount Pictures)
  • Pacific Rim, screenplay by Travis Beacham & Guillermo del Toro, directed by Guillermo del Toro (Legendary Pictures, Warner Bros., Disney Double Dare You)
Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form (760 nominating ballots)
  • An Adventure in Space and Time, written by Mark Gatiss, directed by Terry McDonough (BBC Television)
  • Doctor Who: “The Day of the Doctor”, written by Steven Moffat, directed by Nick Hurran (BBC Television)
  • Doctor Who: “The Name of the Doctor”, written by Steven Moffat, directed by Saul Metzstein (BBC Televison)
  • The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot, written & directed by Peter Davison (BBC Television)
  • Game of Thrones: “The Rains of Castamere”, written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, directed by David Nutter (HBO Entertainment in association with Bighead, Littlehead; Television 360; Startling Television and Generator Productions)
  • Orphan Black: “Variations under Domestication” written by Will Pascoe, directed by John Fawcett (Temple Street Productions; Space/BBC America)
Note: Category has six nominees due to a tie for the final position.

Best Editor, Short Form (656 nominating ballots)
  • John Joseph Adams
  • Neil Clarke
  • Ellen Datlow
  • Jonathan Strahan
  • Sheila Williams
Best Editor, Long Form (632 nominating ballots)
  • Ginjer Buchanan
  • Sheila Gilbert
  • Liz Gorinsky
  • Lee Harris
  • Toni Weisskopf
Best Professional Artist (624 nominating ballots)
  • Galen Dara
  • Julie Dillon
  • Daniel Dos Santos
  • John Harris
  • John Picacio
  • Fiona Staples
Note: Category has six nominees due to a tie for the final position.
Best Semiprozine (411 nominating ballots)
  • Apex Magazine, edited by Lynne M. Thomas, Jason Sizemore, and Michael Damian Thomas
  • Beneath Ceaseless Skies, edited by Scott H. Andrews
  • Interzone, edited by Andy Cox
  • Lightspeed Magazine, edited by John Joseph Adams, Rich Horton, and Stefan Rudnicki
  • Strange Horizons, edited by Niall Harrison, Brit Mandelo, An Owomoyela, Julia Rios, Sonya Taaffe, Abigail Nussbaum, Rebecca Cross, Anaea Lay, and Shane Gavin
Best Fanzine (478 nominating ballots) - #1, #2, and #5 are published by people whose opinions I do like reading, even when I disagree with them.
  • The Book Smugglers, edited by Ana Grilo and Thea James
  • A Dribble of Ink, edited by Aidan Moher
  • Elitist Book Reviews, edited by Steven Diamond
  • Journey Planet, edited by James Bacon, Christopher J Garcia, Lynda E. Rucker, Pete Young, Colin Harris, and Helen J.Montgomery
  • Pornokitsch, edited by Anne C. Perry and Jared Shurin
Best Fancast (396 nominating ballots) - Same I said above for #3 and #4, even though I rarely listen to podcasts.
  • The Coode Street Podcast, Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe
  • Galactic Suburbia Podcast, Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts (Presenters) and Andrew Finch
    (Producer)
  • SF Signal Podcast, Patrick Hester
  • The Skiffy and Fanty Show, Shaun Duke, Jen Zink, Julia Rios, Paul Weimer, David Annandale, Mike Underwood, and Stina Leicht
  • Tea and Jeopardy, Emma Newman
  • Verity! Deborah Stanish, Erika Ensign, Katrina Griffiths, L.M. Myles, Lynne M. Thomas, and Tansy Rayner Roberts
  • The Writer and the Critic, Kirstyn McDermott and Ian Mond
Note: Category has seven nominees due to a tie for the final position.

Best Fan Writer (521 nominating ballots) - Same again for #s 1-4
  • Liz Bourke
  • Kameron Hurley
  • Foz Meadows
  • Abigail Nussbaum
  • Mark Oshiro
Best Fan Artist (316 nominating ballots)
  • Brad W. Foster
  • Mandie Manzano
  • Spring Schoenhuth
  • Steve Stiles
  • Sarah Webb
The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (767 nominating ballots)
Award for the best new professional science fiction or fantasy writer of 2012 or 2013, sponsored by Dell Magazines. (Not a Hugo Award, but administered along with the Hugo Awards.)

  • Wesley Chu
  • Max Gladstone*
  • Ramez Naam*
  • Sofia Samatar* - I've enjoyed her works; haven't read the others yet.
  • Benjanun Sriduangkaew

Friday, April 18, 2014

R.I.P. Gabriel García Márquez

Yesterday brought the sad news of the passing of Gabriel García Márquez at the age of 87.  It was not unexpected, as his brother said in 2012 that Gabo had senile dementia, but it is still a loss tinged when memories, far from all of which were melancholic, of the wonderful stories he had created over a span of nearly sixty years.

As is often the case when a famous writer dies, readers of his/her work try to summarize the impact that the author's writings have had on them.  For myself, it was the desire to read Cien años de soledad (One Hundred Years of Solitude) in its original idiom that led me to learn how to read Spanish fluently ten years ago.  A week ago, I had started re-reading Cien años de soledad for a review here in the coming week or two.  I would read maybe a chapter or two a night, often after my tasks at my night job were complete and I was awaiting the arrival of the late-night shift, and think on the vivid imagery, recalling the laborious yet fruitful effort of writing down unfamiliar words and looking them up ten years ago, learning dozens of words a week, reading perhaps a scant five pages a day, until I finished reading it in April 2004, around the time of my Confirmation.

It is odd, ten years later, to learn of the author's death before another Easter celebration.  I had just finished reading two nights before the death of José Arcadio Buendía about midway through OHYS and I remembered this passage after learning of Gabo's death:

Cuando estaba solo, José Arcadio Buendía se consolaba con el sueño de los cuartos infinitos.  Soñaba que se levantaba de la cama, abría la puerta y pasaba a otro cuarto igual, con la misma cama de cabecera de hierro forjado, el mismo sillón de mimbre y el mismo cuadrito de la Virgen de los Remedios en la pared del fondo.  De ese cuarto pasaba a otro exactamente igual, cuya puerta abría para pasar a otro exactamente igual, y luego a otro exactamente igual, hasta el infinito.  Le gustaba irse de cuarto en cuarto, como en una galería de espejos paralelos, hasta que Prudencio Aguilar le tocaba el hombro.  Entonces regresaba de cuarto en cuarto, despertando hacia atrás, recorriendo el camino inverso, y encontraba a Prudencio Aguilar en el cuarto de la realidad.  Pero una noche, dos semanas después de que lo llevaron a la cama, Prudencio Aguilar le tocó el hombro en un cuarto intermedio, y él se quedó allí para siempre, creyendo que era el cuarto real.  A la mañana siguiente Úrsula le llevaba el desayuno cuando vio acercarse un hombre por el corredor.  Era pequeño y macizo, con un traje de paño negro y un sombrero también negro, enorme, hundido hasta los ojos taciturnos.  «Dios mío», pensó Úrsula.  «Hubiera jurado que era Melquíades.»  Era Cataure, el hermano de Visitación, que había abandonado la casa huyendo de la peste del insomnio, y de quien nunca se volvió a tener noticia.  Visitación le preguntó por qué había vuelto, y él le contestó en su lengua solemne:

– He venido al sepelio del rey.

Entonces entraron al cuarto de José Arcadio Buendía, lo sacudieron con todas sus fuerzas, le gritaron al oído, le pusieron un espejo frente a las fosas nasales, pero no pudieron despertarlo.  Poco después, cuando el carpintero le tomaba las medidas para el ataúd, vieron a través de la ventana que estaba cayendo una llovizna de minúsculas flores amarillas.  Cayeron toda la noche sobre el pueblo en una tormenta silenciosa, y cubrieron los techos y atascaron las puertas, y sofocaron a los animales que durmieron a la intemperie.  Tantas flores cayeron del cielo, que las calles amanecieron tapizadas de una colcha compacta, y tuvieron que despejarlas con palas y rastrillos para que pudiera pasar el entierro. (pp. 241-242, Catedra edition)

On this Holy Friday, as many of us, like the wandering Cataure, come in spirit to the funeral of the King, it is fitting that we make note of the passing of a lesser, literary king, one whose recasting of Colombian (and by extension, Latin American) history in the form of a flyspeck village whose miracles, such as the rain of yellow flowers narrated above, served to heighten both the realness and irreality of the 20th century.  The world is now not so recent, not so new, that we lack names for everything, but sometimes we still just have to point to those rare things that defy our poor attempts to describe them.  Gabriel García Márquez is one of those and all these words above try to do is to provide a reason for me to just point to his works and signal, "read these, for there is much of us in them."  If that is not enough to persuade, then perhaps nothing will be fitting enough.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

2014 IMPAC Dublin Literary Prize shortlist announced

This was announced a few days ago, but here are the finalists for the 2014 IMPAC Dublin Literary Prize, selected by voters from libraries from across the globe for works originally released in English in 2012 (bolded titles are ones that I have read, in two cases in the original Spanish):

  1. The Detour by Gerbrand Bakker, (Dutch) translated by David Colmer. Published by Harvill Secker. 
  2. Questions of Travel by Michelle De Kretser (Sri Lankan / Australian) Published by Allen & Unwin.
  3. Absolution by Patrick Flanery (American) (First novel) Published by Atlantic Books.
  4. A Death in the Family by Karl Ove Knausgaard (Norwegian) Translated by Don Bartlett. Published by Harvill Secker.
  5. Three Strong Women by Marie NDiaye (French) Translated by John Fletcher. Published by MacLehose / Quercus and by Alfred A. Knopf.
  6. Traveller of the Century by Andrés Neuman (Argentinian) Translated from the original Spanish by Nick Caistor and Lorenza Garcia. Published by Pushkin Press and by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. (2009 Premio Alfaguara winner)
  7. The Light of Amsterdam by David Park (Northern Irish) Published by Bloomsbury.
  8. The Spinning Heart  by Donal Ryan (Irish) (First novel) Published by Doubleday Ireland / Lilliput Press.
  9. The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng (Malaysian) Published by Myrmidon. (2012 Man Asian Prize winner; 2012 Man Booker Prize finalist)
  10. The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vásquez (Colombian) Translated from the original Spanish by Anne McLean. Published by Bloomsbury. (2011 Premio Alfaguara winner)
While I am uncertain whether or not I'll read/review the other seven finalists before the winner is announced in June, I almost certainly will have written reviews of the Neuman and Vásquez by that time, as each are previous Premio Alfaguara winners that I have yet to review.  I can say that the three that I've read to date are very strong books, so this bodes very well for the other seven on the list.

I'm going to make one more awards shortlist post this week, then hopefully the majority of my daily posts will be reviews, translation pieces, or commentaries on particular subjects.  Lots more time in the evenings for these after Friday.
 
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