16 October 2010

Reading diary: September 2010


51. Bad Nature, or With Elvis in Mexico by Javier Marías, trans. Esther Allen

This is just a short story (57 pp.) but it's hard-hitting.

I wrote a bit about this book, including a profile of Marías, here: http://booktrek.blogspot.com/2010/09/visiones-de-marias.html

52. Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda, trans. W. S. Merwin

Melted cheese. 

53. Norwegian Wood II by Murakami Haruki, trans. Alfred Birnbaum

The second volume is where the story soars to unexpected heights, and drowns in its bottomless abysses. I was prepared to hate this book through and through. However, in this second volume, my initial disappointment gave way to appreciation of Haruki's dramatic sense ... and sensibility.

I was prepared to hate it but I didn't. Even if the characters wear their hearts on their breast pockets, are too honest in their raw tender feelings, too sensitive, too suicidal. What a heartwrecker of a book. Now all I need do is see the movie.

(I tried to read the two translations (by Alfred Birnbaum & Jay Rubin) side by side. There are interesting divergences between the two translations (e.g., word choice: "Storm Trooper" in Rubin's version is "Kamikaze" in Birnbaum's.). But the two translations are quite comparable really that I feel like I'm just rereading the whole thing. I ended up just reading the whole of the Birnbaum translation. I don't think Rubin improved on it.)

54. The Speed of Light by Javier Cercas, trans. Anne McLean

Another false novel about a Vietnam war veteran and a writer who tries to tell his story. It is Cercas's follow up (sequel) to the successful Soldiers of Salamis. As with the previous book, this one is concerned about the haunting of memory and history, with the added burden of all-consuming fame and success. Cercas has repeated his formula, with mixed results. But it is always a pleasure to see him grapple with Sebaldian themes.

55. The Makioka Sisters by Tanizaki Junichirō, trans. Edward G. Seidensticker

A tale of four sisters, their search for happiness, and their vanishing world. The novel is steeped in Japanese culture. My field notes here: http://booktrek.blogspot.com/2010/09/makioka-sisters-tanizaki-junichiro.html

56. Antwerp by Roberto Bolaño, trans. Natasha Wimmer

A detective story told in fragments....Reading as crime solving....The only book that doesn't embarrass Bolaño....His least accessible fiction....Functions more as a sequence of prose poems...With an aimless itinerary....Fueled by its own momentum....For those who want to play the part of detectives....Let me know when you solve the riddle...

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