It’s time to face it: My annual summer blogging slump has coincided with #spanishlitmonth. There are just too many distractions this year; sunshiny days here and there, Brexit, the massive Edinburgh Book Festival TBR (20 strong – 6 read and only 17 sleeps to go) plus a major life change. 10 working days from now, I join the ranks of the (early) retired. Now you’d think the prospect of all that free time is a cause for great celebration – and it is – but I’m not planning on spending it hunkered down with the blog and my books. I’m intending to travel for a while and sorting out the plan for that is highly distracting. My bucket list of things to do is almost as long as my TBR! But more on that in September – post Edinburgh Book Festival.
For now, back to the event in hand, Spanish Literature Month and my attempts to focus on it with varying degrees of success.
The main objective was a re-read of Don Quixote, as I am looking forward to a reading workshop with Andres Neuman in Edinburgh on 19th July. I have a memory of reading and enjoying this in my late teens. I’m beginning to think it is a false memory because at 100 pages, I’ve put it to one side. It’s became apparent during my reading of the Walter Scott Shortlist earlier this year, that I’m not much inclined to episodic narratives. Is there anything more episodic than Don Quixote? I can’t see me picking this up again without encouragement. Will Andres Neuman convince me to do so? I also have a copy of William Egginton’s The Man Who Invented Fiction, which is calling to me loudly in this year of #cervantes400. Perhaps a leisurely parallel read is called for. Later in the year.
Elvira Navarro’s The Happy City is a much shorter read. This book consists of two interconnected short stories with adolescent protagonists; the first, a young Chinese immigrant. When his parents emigrated to Spain, the toddler Chi-Huei was left behind with his aunt for 5 years, until such time as they established themselves and could send for him. As he grows older, he is expected to spend time helping the family business. There’s no time for a childhood, what with school, the family business and being bullied as the outsider. A couple of friendships are formed with local girls, one of whom could be a romantic interest. Sara, however, has preoccupations of her own, which are disclosed in the second story. Not that I had much truck with her obsession with a homeless man. Though I recognised the duplicitousness of a rebellious teenager in her. Hmmm. I had much more sympathy with Chi-Huei, particularly as the damage to his relationship with his mother, caused by those early years of absence, surfaces in later years. I can’t say I enjoyed this read though. The stories, particularly the second one, are vignettes, studies of a particular moment in time, and we’re right back to my current problems with episodic narratives again.
Thankfully I had more success with Adolfo Bioy Casares’s The Invention of Morel. Although if you want proof that my mind was/is(?) not in the right place, at one point I contemplated abandoning even this! Too many repetitions – it seemed to take an age (which is saying something as the tale is only 96 pages long) to stop looping round the incidents of the protagonist’s love interest ignoring him. (Ironic, given that those loops in time are the precise point.) I shall say no more at this stage except that I ended up loving this recognised masterpiece. I must return to it soon, both to appreciate it more and write a review worthy of a novel (novella?) Borges called perfect.
Finally I picked up another small piece – The Paper House by Carlos Maria Dominguez, which I bought a couple of years on the back of Annabel’s review (which seems not to have been republished on her new domain.) Suffice to say this is a book about book lovers, the dangers of obsessive book collecting and of reading while walking. (2 of the 3, not the latter, apply to me.) It also encompasses the tragedy of a £20,000 book collection going to rack and ruin, exposed to the elements, after being turned into a physical beach house. No surprises that this little volume touched me more than any of the other books mentioned in this post!