No one writes to the Colonel, by Gabriel García Márquez

41059627 Set in the decaying Colombian town of Macondo, the Colonel is scraping together the money for food and medicine. It is the Colonel’s rooster that gives him hope for a better future as it has become a symbol of defiance in the face of despair.

Don’t know what happened last week -college, more likely- but I completely forgot to publish here. Well, it’s not like someone is reading…

Anyway…

The Colonel is waiting for a letter. He’s been waiting for this letter for years, and will probably wait for many more… Or maybe not, it could arrive any day, now.

This letter, if arrived, would mean they’d asigned him, finally, a pension for his services in the army. This letter would mean that he could, finally, have a more dignified life, a less desperate economic situation for his ill wife and himself. For now, all he has is his endless patience, and a rooster. This rooster belonged to his deceased son, and it’s promised to make him, and many other people, a fortune in the cockfighting ring, in some months from now. So he waits, just a few more weeks and all his problem will be solved…

This short novel reminded me a lot of the movie Zama (adapted from the homonym novel by Antonio Di Benedetto*), not because of the plot, but because it depicts the sloth slow  movement of bureaucracy. Slow to the point of hopelessness. And for being such a short novel, it really gave me a lot to despair.

*which I haven’t read, but I hope I will.

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Anne of the Island, by L. M. Montgomery

40946102New adventures lie ahead as Anne Shirley packs her bags, waves good-bye to childhood, and heads for Redmond College. With her old friend Prissy Grant waiting in the bustling city of Kingsport and her frivolous new friend Philippa Gordon at her side, Anne tucks her memories of rural Avonlea away and discovers life on her own terms, filled with surprises . . . including a marriage proposal from the worst fellow imaginable, the sale of her very first story, and a tragedy that teaches her a painful lesson. But tears turn to laughter when Anne and her friends move into an old cottage and an ornery black cat steals her heart. Little does Anne know that handsome Gilbert Blythe wants to win her heart, too. Suddenly Anne must decide whether she’s ready for love. (from Goodreads)

I don’t think this synopsis left much out, so I guess I don’t have much to say?

After watching Anne with an E’s second season, I was left -again- with so much eagerness of Anne that I resumed my reading of the series.

For many many years, this was the only book I had access to. I don’t remember exactly how old I was when I first read it, but I guess not older than 12, probably younger. And I read it over and over again, because I had such a girl-crush on Anne! She seemed to me soooo cool! She had red hair, which was something I longed for so much when I was a kid, AND she was going to college! On her own! And was living with her friends! And three cats! Literally, the girl had everything I ever wanted (and kind of, sort of, may be, I still want).

This book was, I believe, the first glimpse I had of what college life could be like, and I couldn’t wait to be of age! Little did I know how different college life would be for me xD

It’s been AGES since the last time I read it, so it was quite a peculiar experience. On one hand, there were parts I had, more or less, printed by fire on my mind. I knew that this, this and this happened. On the other hand, there were so many things I didn’t remember AT ALL, but, while reading, I immediately knew that it was a path that I had walked many times before.

For all of these reasons, this is, and probably forever will be, my favorite book in the series.  

Duo, by Colette

duo-colette-d_nq_np_371125-mla25373309685_022017-fA wedded couple recently arrived to what I understand to be some sort of country house, in Southern France. When everything that seemed to be worrisome were some works of house maintenance and some business affairs, give a quick turn when the husband found out his wife was unfaithful to him with one of his business associates. From that point on, predictably, things will never be back to what they once were.

The husband, deeply hurt and disappointed, shuts himself down, struggling with the news and trying to be in control of his actions, doubting if he wants to really know what actually happened or not. The wife, plotting and measuring every step, wondering how much she must or mustn’t say to avoid making things even worse, and trying to make peace for the remaining days ahead of them in their vacation. The stormy weather doesn’t help at all, as it confined them inside the house, with little to do.

Oppressive and mind wearying, the situation is unbearable for both of them.

Another short novel by Colette, but I didn’t enjoy this one as much, probably because the subject had little to be joyful about.

Marianela, by Benito Pérez Galdós

40192889Marianela, orphaned at a young age, grew up receiving nothing but disdain from everyone. Of feeble constitution, she wasn’t fit to do any kind of mining work, the village’s primary activity, so she was regarded as little else than useless. She survived out of neglectfully provided charity, which never include any sort of education, so she grew up to be a very ignorant child, alien to any kind of scientific knowledge, building up her very particular superstitions from her own experiences of the world around her. A couple of years prior to the beginning of the story she became the companion of a blind young man, which became the only source of joy and feeling of usefulness in her life.

This young man, Pablo, is the only son and heir of a prominent man in the community. Despite his blindness, he was educated by his father, and even though part of the full comprehension of some part of the world is impeded by his condition, his high intellect overcomes his lack of sight.  One of his father’s acquaintances has a brother who happens to be a very prominent eye doctor, and there seems to be some hope that Pablo’s blindness could be fixed.

Pablo has Marianela in a very high regard. Knowing that he might be cured, he even hopes he could ask her in marriage, despite any social difference that there could be. His heart belongs only to her dear Nela, and nothing anyone said could make him  think that Marianela isn’t the most beautiful creature in the world. This breaks the girl’s heart, because the only thing she’s heard her entire life were comments on her ugliness and uselessness. She knows “for a fact” that none of the things that he believes, are real, and that once he’d gain his sight, she’ll have nothing to live for, because she’ll be, this time for certain, a useless creature.  

This book is, I believe, a classic in Spanish literature. I remember the first time I read it, I did  because it was on our high school reading list. And so it was on my mum’s, on her time. The fact that many of the available editions come with preliminary studies an/or activities, prove this point.

Through this edition’s preliminary study I learned that this novel is considered among the realist/naturalist tradition, something I never realized before, as I never considered this novel in context. However, it has a lot more moral content and less natural feeling that their French counterparts, at least the ones I’ve read (see here, here, here and here)

I was happy to re-read it again, as my first time coincided with my last. I do wonder, though,  why would they give this kind of tragic stories for kids in their early teens. I definitely didn’t appreciate its content back then.

La canción de nosotros, by Eduardo Galeano

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Title translation (approx.): The song of us (maybe? When I was checking if this was a possible grammatical construction, I found out there’s already an English written book by that name)

Mariano is back. Back from where and back to where I don’t remember if it’s ever said*. Let’s just said he’s back from exile, and back to find and reconnect with the woman he loved (and still does) and was forced to left behind, Clara. After all he went through, Mariano is far from being the same person Clara met then, and they own themselves a deep conversation.

Ganapán and Buscavida**, in a way of having a goodbye party for the later, who is to leave the city soon, dreaming of having a better life somewhere else, just drunk all their remaining money. They wander around, trying to find a way to collect what’s necessary to buy Buscavida’s ticket, or some food. Ganapán is one of those who seemed destined from birth to poverty, and can hardly expect anything else. At least, he has his heart in the right place. Buscavida, not so much.

Rethinking this book now, I feel Mariano is like Ulysses coming back for Penelope, after having survived his odyssey. Ganapán is currently going through his own, one of a different kind, but struggling, nonetheless.

This was my first time reading something by Galeano. He was recommended to me before, and I have even buy some of his books for other people as presents, but never find myself reading any of them. I had to start somewhere, and this one came to my hands.

By the time this book was published, 1975, Galeano was exiled in Argentina while Uruguay was under a dictatorial government. While I was reading the chapters dedicated to the imprisonment, and the tortures, and even those fragments excerpted from the Inquisition’s archives (so hard to read), I couldn’t help but thinking how ominous they were to Argentina’s own near future (as in 1976 would start the last and most gruesome dictatorship of our history). I was also thinking how curious it was that, even when I was reading for pleasure, I ended up falling into a timeline coincident with my last non-fiction, graduation-project-related readings.

*although one can easily presume the story occurs in Montevideo, and Mariano’s back from Argentina, more presumably, Buenos Aires.

**theirs was my favorite arc of the book, mostly because it somehow made me think, in a way, of García Márquez’s magical realism, particularly their visit to La Perversa de París’ brothel and the characters they found there. And I absolutely adore their names, and almost every name in their arc, as they’re quite descriptive of the person baring them and any attempt on my part to anglicized them would be a complete disaster.  

Prohibido creer en historias de amor, by Javier Ruescas

36691791English translation: Forbidden to believe in love stories

“I feel like I don’t fit in anywhere. My family is wonderful and I love them very much, but sometimes I feel like they don’t know who I am.”

At 17, Cali belongs to a very unconventional family. Her parents record their everyday domestic life in videos they post on the Internet. Her siblings have their own channels with millions of followers, and her boyfriend is the country’s most popular YouTuber. Obsessed by popularity, no one in Cali’s life seems interested in the changes she’s experiencing inside, smack in the middle of adolescence.

Then she meets Hector, a mysterious street musician who plays the same song on the Metro every day. It’s the only thing he remembers from his childhood. He plays his song hoping that someone will recognise it and tell him where it comes from. In Hector, Cali unexpectedly finds someone who seems to understand her, as if they’d always known each other. By helping him find his origins, Cali will discover what she herself is made of. (from here)

I got the chance to read this one thanks to Edición Anticipada. Very few of them were given away for a review, and I was lucky enough to open their notification email just as I got it.

Javier Ruescas is one of the spoiled childs of the Young Adult genre in Spanish. Since his first book came out in 2009, he published 18 more, Prohibido… being the last one, which came out a couple of months ago.

I hadn’t read anything from Ruescas before, but I was aware of all the prattle about his work, so I gave in to it and requested the book.

The plot was predictable, as it followed what I think are very classic formulas and tropes of romantic stories: girl has a life that many dream of but girl is not happy with her life and nobody gets her feelings, but she can’t talk about them because she doesn’t want to hurt other people’s feelings, girl meets mysterious boy with a tragic past, mysterious boy annoys girl and, at first, girl can’t stand him but then girl bonds with him and eventually they fall in love and “solve” mysterious boy tragic past. In the meantime, girl finds an outlet for her frustration and improves her life. Add friends, family and whatnot. But, probably because it seizes all these overused and well known ingredients, ends up with a result that is not at all unpleasing.

The novel makes a lot of use of the “social media culture” (if there’s such a term), particularly that of YouTube, something the author himself is very familiar with. While it probably has a lot of resonance to the targeted audience, it does make me wonder how will the story age overtime.

In the end, to me it was like any generic rom-com: it was ok to fill a Sunday afternoon, absentmindedly, but I might won’t remember a thing of it at the end of the year.

The Private Papers of Eastern Jewel, by Maureen Lindley

6466895Peking, 1914. When the eight-year-old princess Eastern Jewel is caught spying on her father’s liaison with a servant girl, she is banished from the palace, sent to live with a powerful family in Japan. Renamed Yoshiko Kawashima, she quickly falls in love with her adoptive country, where she earns a scandalous reputation, taking fencing lessons, smoking opium, and entertaining numerous lovers. Sent to Mongolia to become an obedient wife, Yoshiko mounts a daring escape and eventually finds her way back to Peking high society—this time with orders from the Japanese secret service.

Based on the true story of a rebellious woman who earned a controversial place in history, The Private Papers of Eastern Jewel is a vibrant reimagining of a thrilling life—a rich historical epic of palace intrigue, sexual manipulation, and international espionage. (from Goodreads)

This book came to me from a friend, who was giving away some of her books.

I took in most of them.

Now I have books for at least two years worth of reading.

Anyway…

This novel is written as some sort of memoire, so it’s narrated in first person by Yoshiko, an historical character I’ve never heard of before. The story of the real Yoshiko seems vertiginous for a woman at that time and at that place (China/Japan/Mongolia), and the writer did a good job placing her as an exception and a person way ahead of her time, mostly due to her unusual upbringing and the facts that 1) she more or less received an education normally reserved for boys and that 2) she was forced to adulthood too early in her life. How much of this is actually based on historical facts, I can’t say. I chose to read it mostly like a work of fiction, as it was hard for me to wrap my mind around everything that was happening. What can I say? My lifestyle is quite unimpressive and my wildest adventures are always related to unfortunate commutes. That’s why I read so much…  

Is this a book I would have chosen in a bookstore for its cover or its argument? Probably not.

Did I like this book? Ehhh… I didn’t dislike it, but after a while the chapter’s cadence became repetitive, and every new element that came out to stir things up, got quickly absorbed into that monotonous rhythm. It’s just one of those books that leave me more or less indifferent, which is probably not a very nice thing to say about someone’s work, but that’s how I feel.