Clever Catalan

GuadalajaraGuadalajara by Quim Monzó

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I have no idea why it is called Guadalajara. I may have missed something obvious, but I didn't spot anything when I flipped through after I finished reading it.

I suppose these stories might be called “high concept” in that most are premised on some clever what if core. Like what if there was story that is a reverse of Kafka's Metamorphosis where a beetle wakes up as a human? Or what if your apartment building acted like a MC Escher drawing and you could never get out?

Yep. They are all very, very, clever. I am just glad they were all very short. They all interesting but you really don't care about the characters. And another thing, most of them are so high concept he doesn't bother finishing out the endings of these “what ifs”. Many of them he sets the scene makes a few moves but leaves it up to the reader to decide what happens.

OK. I liked it. But I probably won't read another book by Mr Monzó

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More Sepúlveda

Full Circle: A South American JourneyFull Circle: A South American Journey by Luis Sepúlveda
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A somewhat rambling book by Sepúlveda that starts in Spain, follows stories to Patagonian and back to Span. Full of wild characters and wild stories. Some charming, some scary. A short book but it packs a lot, and he has lived a pretty amazing life. A life filled with bravery, danger and audacity and still giving off a feeling of soft curiosity (I am not sure what that means, but somehow it seems right, at least to me).

We get to see the unconventional charm of the unconventional people he meets. Like after the 18th Patagonian lying Championship...

“I lifted my head to look at the sky studded stars, thousands of starts.
'Nice Lie, that one about the louse,; says Baldo
'And the sky? All the stars, Blado?Are they another Patagonian lie?'
'What does it matter? Down here we lie to be happy. But we all know the difference between lying and deception.'”
pg 111

I remember his novel about the old man who read romance , and after all the craziness in this book, his ending had me fighting back the tears that must somehow compare to the sweet emotions the old man in the other book was yearning for. Maybe it is just a simple display of a happy, pure expression of human connectedness(now that I think of it maybe that is a stretch; maybe we are just both sentimental suckers).

The story ends in a small village in Spain, where upon meeting his grandfather's younger brother for the first time the old man realizes the connection Sepúlveda writes..

“A serious look came into the old man's countenance...

Then Don Angel cleared his throat and pronounced the most beautiful poem life has rewarded me with, and I knew I had come full circle: I was at the starting point of the journey my grandfather began. 

Don Angel said:

'Maria, bring some wine, a relative has come from America.' ”
pg 183

Thumbs up!
Good stuff.

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