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Weekend Reading

By Bud Parr

image I happen to be reading Francisco Goldman's The Art of Political Murder: Who Killed the Bishop? and ran across this interesting dialogue between Goldman and Silvana Paternostro, the author of My Colombian War at BOMBSITE the online home of BOMB Magazine:

SP Yes, my book's opening words are the same as One Hundred Years of Solitude: íMany years later... .ë When I started going back to understand where I came from, I realized that I had no clear idea of my childhood home. It turns out that One Hundred Years of Solitude takes place in that giraffe's neck of Colombia's geography where I was brought up. I went back home to understand the history of the country's conflict and realized I had lived in the environs of García Márquez's fictional Macondo. Also there's this binary view, the liberales and the conservadores. Listening to my relatives and reading about the conservadores, I realized that the character of Aureliano Buendía, and the liberals in general, were the other side of my family's coin. If you put the fictional Buendías and my mother's family side-by-side you get the full picture of that region of Colombia.

If you want to know how I came to read Goldman's The Art of Political Murder, you'll find my thinking is similar to Dustin's who wrote this piece over at the McNally Jackson blog about Horacio Castellanos Moya's novel Senselessness:

I should note that Senselessness ends – with a final nihilistic affirmation of paranoia and the unique emptiness of the role of the witness – exactly where Francisco Goldman's own excellent work of reportage The Art of Political Murder picks up. The book is an excellent companion to Castellanos Moya's – I read them back to back – and many people in Goldman's account of the release of the report – the very same report on which our editor is working – are recognizable as characters in Senselessness.

While I was at BOMSITE, I ran across this interview with César Aira. Don't know Aira? No, you probably do, but if you don't it's understandable because only a tiny fraction of his 50 or so novels have been translated. I read Ghosts last year and am eagerly awaiting more from New Directions. As a writer I very much identify with a statment I read about Aira at the Quarterly Conversation: "In fact, Aira has staked out a very cogent and immensely influential (in Latin America) artistic position that basically says 'storytelling at its finest avoids explanations, information, interpretation, etc.'" Here's a bit from the BOMB interview:

MM You wrote about the classic early 20th-century writer Roberto Arlt. You're captivated by his inventiveness, which seems so contemporary.

CA Maybe he's not as good as we make ourselves believe. We have Borges, which forces us to go in search of someone else so we can say that there is more than one writer in the Argentine canon. Readers are ahead of globalization. If at a certain time I had to choose between reading the Argentine Groussac or Proust, I would read Proust. For me reading and writing both have to do with the freedom that we lack in our social life. I always say that I'm a man of letters, but that doesn't mean that I'm disconnected from everything else. Once I was on a plane with a literary critic, we were going to a literature conference and I saw that Robert Duvall was in a nearby seat. I told the critic and he replied, íI don't know of any Duvall in this conference.ë

Marcela Valdes writes about Alejandro Zambra in The Nation:

Before Bonsai, Zambra published two volumes of poetry, and he's said that Bonsai began as a third collection of verse that developed into a novel. This history may explain the novel's minimalist style and formal cleverness. (Zambra uses synecdoche and symbol to marvelous effect.) What's most unusual about the book, however, is its insistence on breaking the reader's suspension of disbelief. Like a modern Henry Fielding, Zambra makes no effort to disguise his literary devices; rather, he highlights them at every turn.

Lastly, The Guardian's latest "Stories from a New Europe"* is "Zgaiba" by Stelian Tanase:

Zgaiba died Wednesday at 17:26 – his head smashed in. A car travelling at speed killed him in the middle of the street. The sound of the blow kept ringing in Vivi's brain. The driver never stopped. He must have heard a thud under the body of the car, there under the right front wheel. He floored the accelerator, and remoteness swallowed him...

Oh, yeah, and have you read "Pink Pigeons - Was it They Who Won?" here at Words Without Borders? C'mon, with a title like that how can you resist. It begins:

An early August wind whispers through the lush green trees of Alma Ata. The tiny leaves break into applause. "What are these trees called?" I ask the interpreter. "Tuzhi," the ravishing, delicate Tatar beauty responds gently, in a distinctly American accent. Her name is Gulnaz. So beautiful, fragile-looking, adorable! Like a refreshing vision of paradise itself. And the words flow from her mouth in a cascade of flowers. A persistent breeze keeps blowing her short blonde hair across her light brown eyes. Again and again she pushes it back with her delicate white hand; the white stone in her gold ring flashes in the sun. Gulnaz, why is it that our meeting here in Alma Ata reminds me of Mulla Yusuf Ziai all of a sudden?

Published Jun 19, 2009   Copyright 2009 Bud Parr

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