What I read in bulk, Kazuo Ishiguro, Nobel Prize in Literature (2017) as well as Booker (1989) for The Remains of the Day, which I read a few years ago and which impressed me a lot. When I saw Nocturnes (2011), at Nelson's second-hand book market, I thought maybe I'd like it, even if it was five short stories, a genre I don't usually like. And what had thrilled me in The remains of the day, the subtlety of the subject, the delicacy of the writing, bored me in these short stories having music as a common theme, with a similar subtlety, but without depth, or it's just that I don't like short stories. The Sunday Times reviewer actually summed it up nicely:
Closing the book, it's hard to recall much more than an atmosphere or an air; a few bars of music, half-heard, technically accomplished, quickly forgotten.
Maybe that's what he liked about the book, whereas for me, that's what bored me.
Delphine de Vigan. Nothing holds back the night (2011). Well, I'm a little behind on new stuff, but it's too expensive to bring French books to New Zealand and I can't access Kindle or other electronic platforms either, which don't allow buying books from other countries (I don't understand why). But, I'm quite happy to have found five or six books in French at the Nelson second-hand book fair, including this one, by an author I had already read Based on a true story (2017) , a kind of autofiction that I talked about in the blog (in French). In Nothing holds back the night, she reflects on the life of her mother, who suffered from mental illness, the silence of the family, its effect on herself and her sister, in an authentic way, where one can feel her tenderness. Many questions, a few answers, in short, she revisits in an original way, the bottomless subject of the past, the family, the origins and the reliability of memory.
The Hotel on Place Vendôme, by Mazzeo Tilar J. (2014). Basically, it's more or less the story of the Ritz hotel in Paris, through its famous patrons, since the late nineteenth century, including Proust, Hemingway, Coco Chanel, Marlene Dietrich, Ingmar Bergman, Arletty, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, but also the German Occupation and war journalists. The author knows her subject well and the historical context surrounding particular events are well documented. A light way to understand history.
Isabel Allende, Ines of my soul, Fourth Estate, 2006, 313 p. I found this book at the Nelson second hand book fair last year. This is the first book by Isabel Allende that I read. I wasn’t expecting much, but I was pleasantly surprised by her skill in telling this particular story. It remains to be seen if her other books are just as well written. I felt a real affection from Allende for Inès de Suarez, a seamstress born in Plasencia, Extramedura, Spain in 1507, who embarked for the New World at the age of thirty to join her husband, whom she never found. She instead became a conquistadora who was able to earn the respect of those she met. In 1538, she moved to Cuzco where, as a soldier’s widow, she received a piece of land and « Indians », as the natives of South America were called in those days. Shortly after, she met Pedro de Valdivia, the conquistador of Chile. She becomes his mistress and accompanies him in his long campaign of conquest.
Reading this book, I remembered the beautiful times I spent in South America. In fact, I would have liked to have read this book before travelling there, because Isabel Allende explains quite well the dynamic existing at the time, between the local populations and the Spaniards, the motivations of the conquistadores, their behavior towards « Indians « . One can feel the great respect she feels for the values of the peoples of the territories where she lived, their absolute desire for freedom, their contempt for pain and death, their total incomprehension of the concept of land or human property, their understanding of nature, and many other things. She tells in details the story of Lautaro, of the Mapuche people who, according to what we know of him, would have been captured by the Spaniards when he was very young to take care of the stables and the horses of Valdivia. . After escaping, he led the charge with the Araucanians against the Spaniards. He later captured Valdivia, which he executed a month later. As for Inès Suarez, she was the mistress of Valdivia until the day he had to undergo a trial in Lima, at the end of which he agreed to drop Suarès (and find her a husband) in exchange for his own freedom. In 1549, Suarès married the captain of Valdivia, Rodrigo de Quiroga, with whom she then spent happy days devoting herself to charitable works until her death. We feel Isabel Allende’s affection for all the characters appearing in the 313 pages of her fictionalized story, but based on true documents, which she knows very well. I liked this book enough to make me want to go to the library to see if I could find another Allende book there.
Isabel Allende. Inès de mon âme, Fourth Estate, London and New York, 313 pages.
J’ai trouvé ce livre à la foire du livre d’occasion de Nelson l’année dernière. Il s’agit du premier livre d’Isabel Allende que je lis. Je ne m’attendais pas à grand-chose, mais j’ai été agréablement surprise par son talent à raconter cette histoire particulière. Il faudrait voir si ses autres livres sont tout aussi bien écrits. J’ai ressenti l’affection réelle d’Allende pour Inès de Suarez, un couturière née à Plasencia, Extramedura, en Espagne en 1507, qui s’est embarquée pour le Nouveau Monde à l’âge de trente ans afin d’y rejoindre son mari, qu’elle n’a jamais retrouvé. Elle y est en revanche devenue une conquistadora qui a su s’attirer le respect de ceux qu’elle a côtoyés. En 1538, elle s’installe à Cuzco où , à titre de veuve de soldat, elle reçoit un lopin de terre et des « Indiens », ainsi qu’on les appelait, a l’epoque . Peu de temps après, elle rencontre Pedro de Valdivia, le conquistador du Chili. Elle devient sa maitresse et l’accompagne dans sa longue campagne de conquête.
En lisant ce livre, je me suis rappelé les beaux moments que j’ai passé en Amérique du Sud (j’imaginais qu’Inés Suarez avait vu le paysage magnifique de la photo dans le désert d’Atacama). En fait, j’aurais aimé avoir lu ce livre avant d’y aller, car Isabel Allende y explique assez bien la dynamique existant à l’époque entre les populations locales et les Espagnols, les motivations des conquistadores, leur comportement à l’égard des « Indiens ». On sent le grand respect qu’elle éprouve pour les valeurs des différents peuples des territoires où elle a vécu, leur désir absolu de liberté, leur mépris de la douleur et de la mort, l’incompréhension totale du concept de propriété terrestre ou humaine, leur compréhension de la nature, et bien d’autres choses encore.
Elle y raconte en detail l’histoire de Lautaro, un Mapuche qui, selon ce que l’on sait de lui, aurait été capturé par les Espagnols alors qu’il était très jeune pour s’occuper des étables et des chevaux de Valdivia. Après s’être échappé, il a mené la charge avec les Araucanians contre les Espagnols. Il a plus tard capturé Valdivia qu’il a exécuté, un mois plus tard.
Quant à Inès Suarez, elle a été la maîtresse de Valdivia jusqu’au jour où il dut subir un procès à Lima, au terme duquel il a accepté de laisser tomber Suarès (et de lui trouver un mari) en échange de sa propre liberté. En 1549, Suarès a épousé le capitaine de Valdivia, Rodrigo de Quiroga, avec qui elle a ensuite coulé des jours heureux en se consacrant à des œuvres caritatives jusqu’à sa mort.
On sent l’affection d’Isabel Allende pour tous les personnages apparaissant dans les 313 pages de son histoire romancée, mais fondée sur des documents véridiques, qu’elle connaît très bien. Ce livre m’a plu suffisamment pour me donner envie d’aller à la bibliothèque pour voir si je n’y trouverais pas un autre bouquin d’Allende.
A new author, about whom some claim that he is the discovery of the 21st century: Karl Ove Knausgaard, from Norway, best known for « My Struggle » (a title inspired by « Mein Kampf », that seems unrelated to the German publication (but so far I have only read two of the six volumes under this title) ). I do not know what aroused my curiosity for this author, who recounted in six volumes his daily and inner life from all angles, but there we are. He had previously published other titles very well received by the critics, crowned with various awards, but it was « My Struggle » that made him known worldwide. In principle, what I thought was a kind of autofiction with narcissistic flavors would not appeal to me. And yet. I first read « Spring », which is I believe its penultimate title, when I did not know where to start (it seemed more logical to me, but I had to start with « A death in the family », which recounts, unsurprisingly, the death of his father, but also his adolescence in a very detailed way) . In this book, he recounts insignificant details or important moments, which makes some passages boring (I don’t always have the patience to read them all). The publisher presents it as « an emotional journey of absolute fidelity », a very accurate description, in my opinion, of the author’s adolescence with an exceptional memory. He remembers colors, flavors, moments, noises with an accuracy that leaves me speechless and that I would probably not be able to reproduce. Beyond this literary detail, and even if some moments are long, I am not sure I can put my finger on the precise reason for what touches me so deeply. Perhaps it is his total fidelity to his memories, without any complacency and hi honesty. I find in him no desire to present himself in a favorable light, to autofiction in order to glorify himself or complain, as is often the case in this kind of work. I’ve read a few reviews where it’s mentioned that you hate it or love it, I can imagine both reactions quite easily. As for the author himself, he confessed that he began to write what would become a monumental work, when he had difficulty writing, that he first did it to grasp the present moment, what was happening in his head, and that he had no intention of publishing what he wrote, which I find easy to believe given what he projects in the eyes of the readers, a quite ordinary human being struggling with a world he does not always understand. Elsewhere, he confesses that he is a shameful individual, from whom he tried to free himself by recounting what he considered shameful. It is, I think, another sign that literature, as well as poetry (which I explore in a very humble way here) is always in movement, always changing, this is such a mysterious and fascinating process at the same time. His family and friends also appear in his books and they do not necessarily appreciate what he has to say about them. It has led of course to the questioning of his version of the facts and confirms that any event is experienced in a unique way. He must also live with what he has honestly admitted, and the possibility that his children will one day read his books (not particularly pleasing). So, maybe to read or not, it really depends on what you are looking for in a book. As for me, I intend to continue reading and discover more about him. Will I be able to go to volume 6 or not? To be continued.