Archives par mot-clé : literature

What I have read: Ishiguro, de Vigan, Mazzeo

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.
 

what I have read : Isabel Allende : Ines of my soul

Atacama desert, Chile, 2018, Sylvie GE

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.

What I have read : Virginie Despentes

 Vernon Subutex
I have not read a lot in the last few months as  I’m finishing The Grey Country, my novel about language and identity and I do not have a lot of  time, but I wanted to go back to a book (actually two) from Virginie Despentes  I read last autumn.


Virginie Despentes made her debut as a writer with Fuck me , a book I did not read,  but saw its film version in Christchurch at the Film Festival many years ago (but I left before the end). This book tells the story of a girl raped by three men and her revenge (mostly). Virginie Despentes herself was a victim of rape in her youth (but instead of feeling victim, she  rather felt anger). She has been a prostitute for a while, was  a porn film reviewer, and identifies as a lesbian and a feminist.


Vernon Subutex (spoilers alert !!) was released in 2015 as a  part of a trilogy. I read the first volume in English (a good translation) and the second in French. This is the story of a record store owner who  becomes homeless (volume 1) then guru (more or less, in volume 2), as well as the story of  people around him. I wanted to read the first volume, because it was  talked a lot when it came out and polarised opinions.


In French,  reviewers  who liked the book focused on  her  style (which is sometimes compared to that of Balzac) and the authenticity of the voices. I quite agree with these critics. I rather liked reading the first volume. The pace is sharp and the characters compelling (except the final delirium of Vernon Subutex). I enjoyed it  enough to continue reading the second volume, where the density is lost, the characters are less convincing,  and the story drags. The episode of the girl who « tattoos » the man  she believes to be responsible for the death of her mother is a little too much like the scene from The Girl with a golden tatoo to convince me.

Those who did not like the book  found the thread of the story a little thin (I quite agree with them, but that was not the goal of Despentes, I think) and did not like the characters animated by hatred and power struggles (and I quite agree with them too), which is true but probably corresponds to a certain humanity, probably far from ideal but perhaps a more realistic one. English language reviewers seemed to  like it more, perhaps because, for once, they are presented with something other than the Parisian intelligentsia and a France, which perhaps corresponds more to the one they know. And perhaps for the same reason,   some Parisian intelligentsia did not like Despentes’s book. Or it depicts human beings who are rather ordinary, from the point of view of their character, who may look a little too much like we are : not always noble, sometimes mean, etc. This is probably not the book to read for those who need to regain confidence in humanity. The Irish Times particularly liked Vernon Subutex 1 and even goes so far as to say that Despentes leaves Houellebecq far behind, quite a compliment, given his international prestige. As for me, the second volume disappointed me enough not to make me want to read the third right now, but I may  come back to it one day or the other.