Isolation, by Bex-chan

18485142He can’t leave the room. Her room. And it’s all the Order’s fault. Confined to a small space with only the Mudblood for company, something’s going to give. Maybe his sanity. Maybe not.

“There,” she spat. “Now your Blood’s filthy too!”

Post Half-Blood Prince. Ron and Harry are Horcrux hunting and Hermione has been left at Hogwarts to help the Order make it safe for the other students. Draco is forced by Snape to stay in Hogwarts for his own protection, but he can’t leave the room he is given; Granger’s room. Hermione is the only student trusted with this information, so she and Malfoy share the small space, and Draco tries to avoid insanity as he becomes increasingly isolated with only the Mudblood for company. Something’s going to give… (from Goodreads)

Well… This launches a whole new category that I was not expecting at all: fanfiction.

Back in the day, when I was still in highschool, I might have read my share of fanfiction, but not much, honestly. I have no particular memory of reading anything online, and the only one I almost vividly remember was a weird work that was PRINTED (as, in the format of an actual BOOK) that was in the school’s library. The librarian practically SWORE that was an advanced copy of Order of the Phoenix. Despite that our 15 years-old selves knew better than that, my best friend and I checked it out anyway, just to immerse ourselves in the most ridiculous thing we have ever read, and I wish I’d remember the author or anything, to look that up again. But, other than that, my “fanfic” consumption was mostly visual, through the fanart embodiment of it.

During this winter-break from college I can’t say I used my time very productibly, but I did accomplished to binge some series and podcasts, these last all related to Harry Potter. Two of them are entirely about fanfiction: Potterotica (the name says it all) and Fanatical Fics and where to find them, and I highly recommend both of them.

Obviously, I got over-excited and wanted to dive into this -to me- unknown genre, which I did, building my path mostly through recommendations.

Isolation was my first, which was quite a tour de force. According to Goodreads (because, yes, apparently many of the largest fanfics are listed in Goodreads, and I couldn’t be more elated about that), it has over 1000 pages, and I read the whole thing in about 4 days, staying up late until 3am, avoiding any other type of activity and doing other things like that. I got committed to this new thing.

As the synopsis states, this fic works as an alternative to Deathly Hallows in which Hermione stays in Hogwarts. And, apparently, for being head girl she gets to have basically her own apartment, instead of sleeping in Gryffindor’s Tower. She’s forced to share it with Draco, who’s kept hidden and captive in order to hide him from Voldemort, who wants to kill him for not accomplishing the assassination of Dumbledore. Of course, it’s a Dramione fic, so you all know how that’s supposed to end, eventually, but it was a slow build up to that point. They do not start well, obviously. Draco is basically going insane from his incarceration, and Hermione’s not very happy about having to share her space with her bully. Besides, she’s also exhausted from hours of library research, trying to find something about horcruxes to help Harry and Ron’s clandestine work. None of them is going through their best time, so…  Angst galore! At some point the plotline merges, more or less, with what actually happens in Deathly Hallows, Hogwarts’ Battle and all, with some modifications here and there due the changes already inserted in the fic. That was actually very interesting.

Even though I’m very conflicted with the trope of falling in love with your bully, at least the author made a believable redemption arc for Draco, in a way that he gradually gets “enlightened” and he struggles a lot with his old-beliefs and his new reality and such things. Despite this, I enjoyed every bit of it, as I’m very easily prone to suspend my disbelief while reading fanfic, blind to whatever redflag I would remark in other types of fictions.

You can read this fic here.

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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.

Un novelista en el Museo del Prado, by Manuel Mujica Láinez

40701744This is such an entertaining little book. The premise is very simple: an hypothetical novelist is, somehow, able to stay at the Prado Museum once its doors are closed, and he becomes the only witness to the antics the artworks get into during the night, when the characters that live in the paintings are able to leave their canvases and the sculptures their bases. From that point on, the stories are marvellous! Thanks to this novelist, we became spectators of an “elegance pageant”, of a very populated reunion of all the virgins and madonnas, of a “Sleeping Beauty” pantomime, and some very clueless group of lovers that, thinking they were being embarked to the Kythira island, were actually going in Charon’s boat to the Underworld, just to name a few of these adventures.

Sometimes, the characters behave like the people they’re representing, sometimes like the people who modeled to the artists. Sometimes they are fully aware of their identity, sometimes they have completely forgot who they were suppose to be; either way, they love to brag about the artist who painted them, specially if was one of the masters.

I highly recommend to read these stories with an art history or museum catalogue at hand, to have a more comprehensive reading, if one’s not familiar with some of this artworks.

Next time I’ll visit any museum, I’ll make up my own stories.

Historia de la destrucción de una provincia: Tucumán, 1966, by Roberto Pucci

40787334Since the year began, I’ve been spending some time at libraries, researching for the graduation project I think I’ve mentioned before. So, I read this book at the National Library, for that purpose. It wasn’t my intention, at first, to read it in its entirety, as it covers some years that exceed the timeline of my project, but I ended up finishing it, and still getting good bits of information from those other years.

As the title bluntly says, the book exposes the damage that was done to the province of Tucumán, beginning in 1966 with Onganías’s dictatorship. Despite determining this starting point, the author describes the previous history of mishandling of Tucumán’s affairs by central government that ruled by their own interests, dismissing Tucumán’s own. As if Tucumán’s main industry and economical force, the sugar cane industry, was a curse, a disease for the national interests that must be vanquished.

For many years, and particularly during Onganía’s rule, the province was under the government’s intervention, meaning that the people weren’t able to vote for their own governor and an inspector (the “interventor”), chosen by the central power, was set in place. One of the things that interested me about this is that, as the author explained, these man arrived to the province “brainwashed” to do exactly what the national government said, and, with those predicaments, solve and fix “the Tucumán problem”. All the inspectors began working like this but, at some point, they realized that things were not only not working but that Tucumán’s situation was worsening. This is what the authors calls the “tucumanization” of the inspectors, when they address the central power about this contradiction and either keep asking for more help or suggesting or demanding a change of politics. After this, they were almost immediately replaced by another inspector and the cycle began again.

And this is just a little bit about the terrible things done to Tucumán described in this book. These were also the reasons why the group of artists I read about in Del Di Tella a “Tucumán Arde” decided to expose this situation. And is the subject of my graduation project.

The red notebook, by Paul Auster

50621The Red Notebook stories, pulled from Auster’s own life or from the lives of those close to him, are explorations of unexpected coincidences. A wrong number becomes the genesis for a famous novel; a hero appears at an inopportune moment; a lightning storm harries a group of campers; a daughter plunges from a terrifying height only to land improbably safely; a Paul Auster imposter materializes. Like a magic show, The Red Notebook demonstrates that “there is much to life that is special and serendipitous — if only we allow ourselves to perceive it this way” (The Washington Post) (from Goodreads)

I feel I’m repeating myself, but, again, this is a case of “This was my first time reading something by _______”. I guess that happens a lot when you just grab a book from a pile without giving it much thought…

The book is divided in various sections. The first one, The red notebook, is a series of anecdotes. As common subject, they are all stories of coincidences that happened to the author or were told to him by other people. He ends the last story saying “This really happened. Like everything else I have set down in this red notebook, it is a true story”, which immediately made me think “No way”. This first part was highly entertaining, though, as he writes about very mundane and little bits of everyday life and makes it absolutely compelling.

The next section compiles three prefaces he wrote, one for an anthology of French poets, one for a compilation of writings by Mallarmé and another for an edition of Philippe Petit’s writings. These three books were works in which he worked as, I guess, editor, in one case making the anthology of French poets, in the other two, translating Mallarmé and Petit. I really liked this section, although the one for the anthology became quite dense, at times, for an illiterate to poetry like myself, because he more or less made a summary of 100 years of French poets.

The next section reproduce three interviews he gave, in which he talks about his works, his writing process, etc. This would be very useful if I had read some of his work before. Anyway, still interesting. In one of these interviews I read something that made me rethink my first opinion about the coincidences chapter, which was nice (I still am a bit skeptical, though). At this point things begin to be a bit repetitive, because at times the interviews asked similar questions, so we read the same answers over and over again. At least, he’s consistent along the book.

Then comes a little article called A prayer for Salman Rushdie (or something like that) and then more anecdotes and coincidences, some of which were already mentioned in the interview section.

All in all, it was a nice book for me. I do like reading anecdotes, particularly when they’re so prettily written.

Bellum Catilinae, by Sallustius Crispus

40388058In this book, Sallust (86-35/34 B.C.) recounts the dramatic events of 63 B.C., when a disgruntled and impoverished nobleman, L. Sergius Catilina, turned to armed revolution after two electoral defeats. Among his followers were a group of heavily indebted young aristocrats, the Roman poor, and a military force in the north of Italy. Sallust skillfully captures the drama of the times, including an early morning attempt to assassinate the consul Cicero and two emotionally charged speeches, by Julius Caesar and Cato the Younger, in a senatorial debate over the fate of the arrested conspirators. Sallust wrote while the Roman Republic was being transformed into an empire during the turbulent first century B.C. (from Goodreads)

My main interest of reading this was the fact that it was written over 2000 years ago, by someone who was alive during the events. To me that’s just mind-blowing. It’s so hard to relate to things that happened, let’s say, two or three decades before of our time, to have a mere grasp of what it was our own parents’ reality when they were growing up, that being able to read words from, for and about people that existed so long ago, is really hard for me to wrap my mind around it. I had a similar feeling the day I was standing in front (and then walking inside) of the Colosseum.

And to make things a bit more… weird?, the content was so relatable! The debates in the Senatum highly reminded me (quite obviously, and despite the differences) the ones that, for once in my lifetime, I’ve been, more or less, following in our Congress over the last few months. And the whole conspiracy plot is easily comparable to any current political drama in your prefered streaming service.

What I’m trying to express is, I guess, that despite the two milleniums that separates us from them, little has change in the human condition. I’m not trying to re-discover America here, it’s just that, for once, I’m aware.

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.