Latest and Current Reads

 

Yesterday, I had some time in the afternoon, and I decided to open the YA short book Maggot Moon. It was a fast and fascinating read. Yuri had mentioned this book because he translated it into Russian. He also translated another one, -non YA, but for adults- called Omon Ra, this time into English. The book has been translated into English previously, but I had not read it, and I opted for his translation.

By the way, if you have a Kindle, or a Kindle application (which is free for your device of choice), you can copy any text, save it as a word document, and email it to your Kindle email, and Amazon will make that document show in your Kindle or Kindle app. What’s my Kindle email, you may ask? Go to manage my Kindle, or to the settings on your application, and you’ll see it there.

I can see why Yuri was involved with both these books. They have a different audience, but the same main topic (the Soviet Space program. Not quite. Totalitarian regimes, first country to send men to the moon), and a similar feel. Reading both books, Oman Ra, and Maggot Moon, was a complementary and quite thought provoking experience.

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After a late spring and summer with the amazing  book club people reading The Gray House, I also read some books together with my favorite reading partner, Kim, and for bookclub, and those were The Daughter of Time, and Northanger Abbey. They were good titles, specially Northanger Abbey.

Right now, I’m still reading the fabulous poetry collection, Staying Alive, and with Kim (and also for my two classics challenges), Ten Fingers for God. It’s the biography of Dr. Paul Brand, an English doctor in India, specialized in leprosy, who worked in that country after WWI.  I don’t know how this happened, but the first 3 pages moved me, and made me teary. The image of a man afflicted with a curable and non contagious case of leprosy, who was, nonetheless, ostracized and treated like a stray dog, a man arriving at Paul’s parents house, and receiving humane and tender care by Paul’s mother first, and by his father upon his return from a medical trip in the region, stirred up inside feelings of indignation and compassion.

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And, as the two showing covers attest, I’m reading in Spanish. But both books have an English translation, -in case you are interested.

Los Pazos de Ulloa, translated The House of Ulloa, by Emilia Pardo Bazán, a writer contemporary of my favorite author, Benito Pérez Galdós. They were intimate for quite some time. It’s considered ‘naturalistic’, realistic, even a bit Gothic. It’s a XIX century novel, but placed in Spain. But this one will be once I finish my current book in Spanish, The Storyteller (El hablador), by Mario Vargas Llosa.

What can I tell you about it? Read it! Or not. Since Vargas Llosa is one of those authors that you love, or just don’t. He mesmerizes me. OK, I’ll tell you what you’ll find in this book, why I love it and its author. Vargas Llosa is Peruvian. Peru is a mix of generations coming from the Spaniards, and their rich and vast population from the diverse autochthonous people still present. There’s a chasm between the more colonial white cities, and the Amazons. The Storyteller (most exactly, the talkative one in Spanish), was written in 1987. I am speculating (since I have not researched this as to know for sure), but around that year, -or decade-, in my memory, I register that anthropology was at its peak. Even we who studied philosophy, had a semester, or a full subject, that was devoted to it. What I love, then, it’s that the book touches on this subject in the context of the story of a friendship, with unusual (to me) characters that exist in Llosa’s Peru.

One of the characters is himself, the other is his quaint friend, Mascarita, son of a Jewish dad and a Criolla mom, a friend he knows from high school, who has a purple mole or birth mark that covers half his face, eyes, nose, and mouth included, and who makes him look specially repulsive. A friend who, for that deformity and the reactions he causes in others, has an upbeat look at life, and such a kind and agreeable personality. Mascarita becomes fascinated first and obsessed in time, with the tribes in the Amazonian jungles, and our narrator… (that’s as much as I will tell, since I have not even finished it myself.)

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13 comments on “Latest and Current Reads

  1. Great post and catch up on your reading!

    I read The Feast of the Goat by Vargas Llosa just after he won the Nobel prize and liked it a lot, although it is quite violent. It was also timely because that same year I read The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao which heavily criticized Vargas Llosa and The Feast of the Goat for his sympathy towards Balaguer and the DR government that succeeded Trujillo. Just one of those serendipitous things. I’ve always been meaning to get back to him and read more. So little time, so many books!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nice serendipitous thing, Ruthiella, now I really want to read, not one, but both those books. (Which one did you prefer on the political take of DR?

      Vargas Llosa can be quite violent, that’s how I’d describe him from reading his La ciudad y los perros, but this title is different, it’s very heavy on indigenous Peru, (Mascarita, The Storyteller, goes to live among one of the tribes, and those in the tribe speak about their life migrating, and their experiences with ‘white men’), I am enjoying it, he’s an excellent storyteller himself. But I too have always found him very ‘masculine’, violent, -I just didn’t want the comment to come through as ‘odd’, he is very Homeric, I guess, or very West Side – East Side, lol. (I was going to write this in the post, but I didn’t). His political views (which have also changed, though), are always polemic. His prose is captivating.

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      • Yes, as I understand it, Vargas Llosa has become more conservative as he has aged. Not uncommon really. I think probably the Junot Diaz take on the DR is more to my (liberal) view. Vargas Llosa makes Balaguer out to be a hero of sorts (but mainly a crafty politician). Diaz considers him to be almost as oppressive as Trujillo.

        Also, I have to say reading both books really put the DR on the map for me, which is what I love about reading. I know they are both fictional accounts, but fiction can be a great jumping off point to get in to the historical facts and find out more about a time or place or subject.

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      • I agree with you, Ruthiella. What you comment it’s happening to me right now with The Storyteller. Here, Vargas Llosa has a very different worldview to mine, and he’s talking to us about so many indigenous people I did not even know that existed. And though fictional (in the sense that it did not occur the way he tells it), all the information about the tribes, etc., it’s not invented. It’s a book based on real life. Fascinating. I have never read anything like this. It’s not a novel, it’s not an anthropologist essay, it’s not biography… it’s very compelling, and he asks deep questions in a real scenario. No matter how much you like or dislike Mario Vargas Llosa, his love and knowledge of Peru and its Amazonian population, and his amazing writing skill, is something indisputable.

        I’m going to read those two books, Ruthiella.

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  2. Leprosy is such a sad disease, so devastating to those affected and apparently so easy to cure with a little money. I’ll be interested to hear your final thoughts on that one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I finished it yesterday, and a review is coming soon. It was a fascinating life, and a well narrated book. It read like a novel, once I hit the half way mark, I couldn’t stop reading to know what came next.

      He is the man who, along with some other remarkable individuals, changed the views on leprosy. His reflections on what means to be a person, his thoughts on pain, and how disease robs us from our dignity, taught me a powerful lesson. And the children’s antics, their upbringing in India and the contrast with the time they had to spend in India are funny to read. I also love how the States were portrayed. In his late years, he had an opportunity to live and work in Tennessee, and the different approach between America and Britain are a lesson in history in a nutshell of how different these two nations are.

      It’s a book about exceptional people in exceptional circumstances.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve been re-reading Ten Fingers of God as I thought it would be a good book for daughter to read this year & my older kids and enjoyed it when they read it. I saw that you translated, Mind to Mind into Spanish. You’re doing such a great service, Silvia! Well done!!

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