Book reviews this week

Book reviews this week

Our criticisms of this week: a set of stories by Bukowski, the new novel by Vila-Matas, the debut in style Stina Jackson, an essay by Martin Amis …

«The bells do not bend for anyone»

Charles Bukowski


392 pages,

€ 20.90

Bukowski, even more sex; by Toni Montesinos

A collection of stories by this corrosive and rebellious author is gathered for the first time, including an unpublished one dated in 1948, especially laden with sexual content

Charles Bukowski constantly challenges us as unprejudiced readers, disobedient to everything that comes from official criticism or conventional norms of thought. That is why he remains the king of "underground" culture, of rebellion, of "spleen" and of modern literary eroticism. This was understood by Gregorio Morales, who included it in his "Anthology of Erotic Literature" (1998) highlighting his capacity for subversion: "Only those who renounce the comforts and swan songs of contemporary society can be the hero. In this world where everything is image and publicity, Bukowski opts for the truth ». And the truth is presented in a torn way, often from the perverted male mind, which he exploited to earn money by publishing in magazines for adults. Now we have a new opportunity to let ourselves be surprised by his corrosive prose, thanks to "The bells do not bend for anyone", a title taken from the last story that is collected here and translated by Eduardo Iriarte Goñi with his usual ability. These are stories taken, especially from the series that Bukowski was publishing in «L. A. Free Press ", with the title" Writings of an indecent old man "in the 70s, and you can read others that appeared, for example, in the magazines" Hustler "and" Oui "in the 80s and even one that never saw the light, of 1948, "A friendly, understanding face".

The person in charge of the edition, David Stephen Calonne, says that it is possible to perceive the evolution of the author – something that I would dare to question, since Bukowski cultivated his narrative voice coherently – and finds a common link: «In Bukowski, the narrator is accustomed to observe what happens without being able to do anything, without commenting. It is at the same time quasiparticipante and observer ». Such a thing, in fact, is one of the audacities of the writer's arguments, which presents scenes of sex and violence, fundamentally, in an environment of alcohol, dementia and total loss, with the female figure as a sexual object or being obsessively delivered to the Man, sometimes Bukowski himself paraded under his pseudonym Chinaski, the "alter ego" he devised for his first book, "Postman" (1971). However, warns Calonne, "these accounts also record the wide variety of Bukowski records; can be witty, carefree, intimate and flattering and try his luck with different genres: science fiction, a parody of '' wester '', stories about '' jockeys '' and football players »; and will even address in some delirious pages "the political and social upheaval of the second half of the 1960s".

From life to the story

From the time of the Great Depression, Bukowski had already decided to always be drunk and write narrative. Thus, since he was young he faces the hardest and most self-destructive life in what will end up being the best source for his writings, which reflect the persistent suicidal wink or self-parody around the calamity itself. Sometimes sought through stormy relationships with women or losing money without stopping at the racetrack. All this is reflected in this book, mirror of certain experiences like the one he lived in 1951, when he lived with a street woman named Jane, a reveler and alcoholic, with whom he argued aggressively. In another of his editions, Calonne defined Bukowski's style as a combination of "existential toughness" and "comic verve." In this novelty such a statement again makes sense, even if there are some crazy stories, with assassins or hijackers of airplanes converted at the same time into rapists of stewardesses.

We are not before the Bukowski we knew, who speaks of the dispossessed, ignored, antisocial: of himself, in short. Rather than the one who gives free rein to his pornographic imagination, with flashes of hilarious humor, and is about to turn black and white the thousand and one anecdotes that he lived in person in the streets of Los Angeles, as a recognized author to whom the People wanted to meet. People fascinated by the writings of a man who combined hardness and entertainment and who had a turning point in 1969, when John Martin, head of Black Sparrow Press, decided to help him financially so that he devoted himself entirely to literature; it is then when she finishes her first novel and begins to become popular thanks to her "indecent" series, always with a decadent erotic touch but not suitable for feminists.

About the Author

From German roots, Charles Bukowski (1920-1994) moved to the United States for three years and he later wandered

and he worked in temporary jobs although later he became a symbol of independent literature. He stood out as an iconoclastic poet. Anagrama has published his six novels plus six story books.

Ideal for…

those who like stories of casual, daring, that do not have literary, sexual and social prejudices. After his death a lot of material was found, so his writing never ceases to amaze.

A defect

The editor highlights the drawings with which Bukowski accompanied his writings, but they have little artistic relevance. I could have better explained exactly what the present selection of stories is about.

A virtue

Bukowski has an unparalleled narrative rhythm, is a guarantee of entertainment, and his dialogues of such natural seem to have been taken out of real life, however much they appear in surreal situations.

Score: 9


«This senseless haze»

Enrique Vila-Matas


311 pages,

19.90 euros

There are no mists in Enrique Vila-Matas; by Jesús Ferrer

In this new work the writer delves into the inspirational problems of writing

The narrative of Enrique Vila-Matas (Barcelona, ​​1948) is characterized by its metaliterarias and a content of expressive avant-garde, erratic characters of thoughtful invoice, a mocking intellectual humor, interaction between life and literature, convoluted conceptual fictions, rejection of linearity argumentative and aversion to all sentimentality define an original writing, which has as references to Kafka, George Perec or Raymond Queneau. His consolidated career includes recognized titles such as "Bartleby and company" (2001), where he plays with the denial of authorial identity, or "Mac and his mishap" (2016), in which he approaches literary creation as an elaborate transcription of texts aliens, halfway between plagiarism and tradition. Going deeper into this proposal, he now publishes "Esta bruma insensata," a story of mystified impostures and false appearances. Simon Schneider is a translator dedicated to providing literary quotations to the authors who request them, among them, his brother Rainer, known as "Gros Gros", successful novelist, although of hidden identity, pretentious and cocky, distant and manipulative . The story starts when he decides to move, -from New York- to his native Catalonia and the expectation of reunion with his brother will open some intriguing subplots. On the other hand, Simon suffers a professional block; Unable to find the right appointment, he will undertake an initiatory journey into himself, questioning the prevalence of imaginative originality over intertextual methodology.

It is not surprising that the well-known essay by T.S. Eliot "Tradition and individual talent", where there is speculation about the confrontation between innovative modernity and reworked fiction. Reappearing known obsessions of Vila-Matas, as the voluntary isolation of the writer, embodied in the legendary Salinger and Pynchon; or perhaps the absurd compulsive need for writing, while claiming the literary appointment as an autonomous text, whose excellence depends on suitability.

Automatic writing

There is also the scathing irony about academic criticism, terror before a blank page and speculation with temporal units, inheritance of James Joyce. The game between fictional fiction and testimonial referentiality is insisted upon, as Simon points out: "When you write something that really happened, the words themselves begin to suggest connections that seemed to be absent from the events they described … (… ) the plot then takes control and determines what is left inside and what remains outside, imposes its logic and guides the writer … "(page 253). In short, the vision of literature as an autonomous writing, of impostada own identity, with which the defined profiles of reality are questioned. The title of the novel comes precisely from an appropriate quotation from Raymond Queneau: "This senseless haze in which shadows are shaken, how can I clarify it?"

About the Author

Renowned cult writer, Enrique Vila-Matas (Barcelona, ​​1948) rejects conventional realism, penetrating into metalliterary plots and mystified fictions

ideal for…

be able to assess the excellence of the literary event, as well as its full textual and significant autonomy

a defect

At some point in the novel the action is excessively dispersed

a virtue

The achieved figuration of the hidden writer, as generator of an intriguing and exciting narrative action



«Turks in the fog»

Enrique del Risco


451 pages,

19.50 euros

The "sin" of being born in Cuba; by Sagrario Fdez-Prieto

"Turks in the fog" has won the novel prize that bears the name of Fernando Quiñones and surely the great Cadiz writer would be happy with the decision of the jury, because this novel by Enrique del Risco (Havana, 1967) is a authentic celebration of language and a paragon of unforgettable types, Cubans of origin or adoption, which is very close to the work of Quinones for humor and the overwhelming burden of humanity that its pages give off.

The novel alternates the voices of four protagonists who speak in first person. The one that triggers the story is Wonder, an exiled Cuban who barricades himself in his carpentry shop, armed to the teeth, to try to prevent him from being seized. While waiting for the arrival of the police, he speaks through Facetime explaining his reasons and telling what his life has been like. He is one of the four protagonists of the book, the others are British, an art critic who does not forgive his mother being the cause of the "original sin of making him born in Cuba", Alejandra, an Argentine psychologist moved as a child to the island during the military dictatorship, and Eltico, who survives as he can and maintains with his son a relationship that is as close and loving as it is to hilarious time. Deyanira, Wonder's sister, a kind of life artist specializing in media "performances", also has a special role.

The Revolution and Fidel

The book tells an infinite number of sad or funny stories, but always reproducing that special tone of the oral narration, that exuberant way of talking that "the people there" have. There are three main themes, one of them is fatherhood: parents who lie to their young children because they love them or to protect them, children who will eventually curse so many lies and the damage they caused.

The exile, both physical and emotional, and the great theme that is Cuba, the island and its shortcomings, the hunger of the Cubans, the Revolution and Fidel, whose name, as quoted, are repeated over and over again throughout of this voluminous novel. The man who held many of his companions in prison for more than twenty years or a lifetime, who allowed cripples, madmen and "ladybugs" to cross by barge to Miami so that the world would think that only guys like them wanted to leave "the Cuban paradise ».

Del Risco has written a novel that suggests infinite themes, but above all, it is a book full of emotions that go from joy to sadness and are transmitted to the reader in a masterly way.

About the Author

He is a doctor of Latin American literature at the University of New York, where he is a professor. He is the author of stories and essays. This is his first novel

ideal for…

get to know the life of Cuban exiles in the US and explore part of the history of the continent

a defect

None, it is a great work

a virtue

Get a solid structure in a novel through which so many stories




«Silver road»


320 pages,

18.99 euros

(e-book: 9.99)

Looking for my daughter desperately; by Lluis Fernández

Stina Jackson makes her big debut with «Carretera de plata», an exciting «thriller»

ORSimilarly, in domestic intrigues in which a child disappears or is kidnapped, the spouse who goes mad and obsesses looking for his child is usually the mother and the first suspect, the father. The cliche is usually repeated. In "Carretera de plata", the surprising debut of Sweden's Stina Jackson, the terms are inverted: the father is unable to bear the absence of his daughter and the mother, exhausted, wants to start a new life. If Henning Mankell's novels criticized the failure of the Swedish welfare state and warned about immigration and faceless violence affecting the corrupt Swedish upper class, in "Silver Road" Stina Jackson shifts the focus to the north rural forest, to portray that working class, full of dysfunctional families and children desnortados.

And he does it with such a critical and desolate tone that he manages to convey to the reader the restlessness of those resigned people. Metaphor of the vital tear of the father who obsessively searches for his lost daughter, oblivious to general compassion.

It is difficult to find a Swedish black novel that highlights with poetic and vigorous prose the social grime and the lack of vital breath of their land, Norrland, "a dirty and unreliable place". The rural daily intrigue is drawn with dark strokes and a dry lyricism. Only the glimpse of a youthful love in question and friendship shimmer among the social and moral waste of this portrait of northern Sweden. Place comparable to any French, Belgian or Spanish rural area. Because the social behaviors of broken families and uprooted children have become globalized and Jackson's virtue is to have achieved a trepa whose stencil is a universal step.

In the foreground is the kidnapping, death or disappearance of the daughter, and a father who obsessively searches for that desolate Silver road. What allows him to expand the focus to the social group, describing it as a depressing place. A world of woodland postcard that does not hide the desolation that it exhibits, essential to build the intrigue and to fan the mystery, that Jackson achieves with a precise and realistic writing. It is also essential to combine the psychological intrigue, the atmospheric novel and social criticism in the same gesture.

Society without a compass

«Camino de plata» is a novel about absence, friendship and pain. The father is the painful center of the action and the characters who know a scale representation of his anguished search and metaphor of his impotence. When there is no redemption, nothing better than the laxity of the distant gaze and objective criticism of society without a compass or objectives that the protagonist finds. That is the great achievement of the author, to undress and expose to the summer midnight sun the ugliness of its neighbors and its moral misery. Without gloating in it. Not even showing commiseration or grief. It is the society that surrounds you and where you live. And it achieves it with literary height and an atmospheric mystery that intrigues and shocks.

about the author

New and renewed voice of the Swedish novel, alien to the prevailing fashion. Stina Jackson, with her first novel, is a powerful voice to be followed by the restless reader

ideal for…

lovers of the Swedish mystery novel who seek alternatives to current standards

a defect

Some slowness in the middle of the novel that weights the fluidity of the intrigue

a virtue

The calm and critical tone of the author, as sensitive as pungent

punctuation 9


«Militant Island»

Antonio Puente


193 pages,

20 euros

What the books owe to the islands; by J. Ferrer

Sin numerous literary works in which an island appears as the protagonist framework of the plot action. Just think of "The Treasure Island" by R.L. Stevenson, "The Mysterious Island" by Jules Verne, or "The Island of Doctor Moreau," by H.G. Wells, to verify that, beyond a specific geography, we are before a symbolic reference, an allegory of a disturbing isolation of unbeatable narrative effectiveness. Reclused the characters in a limited space surrounded by the sea, the conflicts of the plot are enhanced, stressing the frictions of the story, which becomes more suffocating and oppressive. With this imaginary as a thesis, the writer, journalist and literary critic Antonio Puente (Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, 1961) publishes "Militant Island", an essay of an extensive but inexcusable subtitle: "The island testament of Shakespeare and Cervantes (between '' The storm "and the island Barataria)," where he compares various aspects of that work of the bardo with the entity of fiction whose government has been promised to the good of Sancho in "Don Quixote." But this is the starting point, because the essay speculation deepens in the diverse meanings of the island's universe, from its influence in the conflicting identity of Cuban literature to the psychological component exemplified by Crusoe, passing through philosophical drifts, the experience of Unamuno banished in Fuerteventura or the characteristic odyssey mythology.

Sancho and Caliban

The justified presence of the Canary Islands stands out. Apart from being the author's native origin, it is undeniable the importance of that scenario in the surrealist group led by Pérez Minik, the poetic imprint of Eugenio and Manuel Padorno and the insightful conceptual view of Sánchez Robayna. The relationship in "The Tempest" between Prospero, the shipwrecked Duke of Milan, and the intriguing slave Caliban is compared to the Quixote / Sancho duo, concluding that it is a "metaphor in the splits of identity", a symbol of ambivalence of the protagonists.

In this sense, the psychological and aesthetic referents of the literary or real inhabitant of the island abound, illustrated with an apt quotation from James Joyce: "The ideology of the island is silence, exile and cunning." With impeccable academic rigor, chosen bibliographic consultation, intentional amenity and accurate conceptual theorization, an original essay is achieved that, starting from a comparative approach, expands its look towards ambitious future perspectives: "Stigmatized or pristine, the islands are the space in which better it can represent the uncertainty of the future ». An excellent book of reading envelopment and solid speech.

About the Author

Writer of essay and poetry books, journalist and literary critic, specializes in cultural journalism

ideal for…

effectively and creatively relate the island context with its broad literary projection

a defect

None remarkable

a virtue

The successful combination between rigor essay and exhibition amenity





Luisa Carnés


312 pages,

19.90 euros

The complaint of the daughter of a barber; by D. Gándara

Plittle by little, the books of Luisa Carnés, writer born in Madrid in 1905 and died in 1964 in Mexico (where she had arrived in exile in 1939), begin to be reissued in Spain after a few years of silence and forgetfulness of a composite work, mostly, for stories, a genre that she cultivated since she was very young (she published the first with only nineteen) and in which she was, on the other hand, quite prolific.

Of humble origin (her father was a barber), Carnés had to dedicate herself to work and not to studies, which was a shop assistant in a headgear and manual worker. That did not stop him from focusing on a vocation that was manifested to him from very early on, and that also overturned the universe of poverty and exclusion he knew so well. Strongly influenced by Russian writers and by social realism, she soon showed herself to be a precocious author, especially of short stories, although by 1936 she had already signed three novels ("Pilgrims of Calvary", "Natacha" and "Tea Rooms") and was an assiduous collaborator in newspapers such as "Estampa", "Crónica", "Mundo Obrero" and "Frente Rojo".

Published in 1930, when Luisa Carnés was twenty-four years old (in fact, it is the first, although it was the second to be published), "Natacha" is inscribed within a current of a certain complaint that shows, in this case, the plot of a young worker of the same name who works as an archetype of social injustice and, at the same time, of the place that women occupied at that time. The novel, in its icy tone and in the atmosphere of daily suffocation that it transmits, can offer at times a landscape of misery and despair, but, behind its dark background, there is a naked reflection about the human condition.


«The touch of time»

Martin Amis


424 pages,

24.90 euros

(e-book: 9.99)

Martin Amis, from Las Vegas to Travolta; by Diego Gándara

Politics, literature and sports parade through these perpspicaces texts of the writer

There is a Martin Amis novelist and another essayist, author of articles and chronicles and also books that have nothing to do with his fiction but with his status as a writer or, what is the same, a man who is dedicated to writing . That is to say, there is the Martin Amis of novels like "Money", "The Information" or "Fields of London" and there is the Martin Amis of books like "Visiting Mrs. Nabokov", "The War Against the Cliché" or "The second plane ». "The touch of time", which brings together texts on all kinds of topics (topics, on the other hand, that are close to the author) and published in newspapers such as "The New York Times Book Review", "Time Literary Supplement" and "The Wall Street Journal », belongs to the latter Amis. In any case, an Amis and another are the same. A writer who has also exercised journalism, who remains attentive to the world situation and unfolds, with a look that moves between the intelligent irony and the indulgence granted by the sense of humor, his vision about his favorite writers, about the culture current, about his craft of writing.

Divided according to political, literary, sports or personal issues, Amis approaches from a trip to the playful universe of Las Vegas to a meeting with John Travolta, although he also draws personal profiles of authors whose work he admires, such as Vladimir Nabokov, Saul Bellow, Iris Murdoch, Anthony Burgess, JG Ballard, Don DeLillo and Christopher Hitchens, or meddles in the social chronicle about the death of Lady Di, Trump's political rise, Islamist terrorism and Colombian narcoviolence, without forgetting that great passion of crowds called soccer.

"Discursive prose" says Amis in the introductory note of "The touch of time" – can not be released from the ego and, in any case, it could always be improved ". In that sense, the collected texts do not cease to be, in some way, the texts of a writer. Whether it's a colorful report on the porn industry, the creative process of "The Arrow of Time," the writer's life surrounded by fame and subject to promotional trips, the 1999 Champions League Final or the unanimous personality Diego Maradona, what stands out above all else is that double life that, according to Nabokov, all writers have, who always have in mind the phrase full of color in the drizzle, "the blank page waiting for me under the lamp of the desk of my modern home », says the author.

To be read

"Writers lead a double life," repeats Amis. But, he cautions, writers also die doubly. "It's the dirty little secret of literature," he says by way of consolation. Writers die twice: once when their body dies and once when their tongue is turned off ». These insightful texts, written clearly, unambiguously, can be read, thus, as a perfect complement to his work of fiction, as if both lives, that of the writer and that of the essayist, did nothing but contemplate the everyday script, that touch, perhaps, of time.

About the Author

Martin Amis was born in England in 1949. He made his brilliant debut as a novelist with "The Book of Rachel", awarded in 1973 with the Somerset Maugham Award

ideal for…

the habitual readers of Amis, but also for those who know how to appreciate well written and sagacious texts

a defect

A couple of mistakes about Maradona. «El Diego» was born in Villa Fiorito and not in Villa Fiorita. And Jorge Cyterszpiler was not his first coach, but his first representative

a virtue

Observe what, in general, often goes unnoticed




«Tomorrow we will have other names»

Patricio Pron


280 pages,

18.90 euros

The emotional "fake" of pron; by Ángeles López

This is the mapping of a failure. The worst of all: the one that concerns the universe of the affections. The dissection of lack of love in social networking times, photos before the tasting of a dish, stress figure, emotional asepsis, express appointments, love without depth of field and the "anything goes for a like". Love is no longer love but something else; We should find another name related to consumption. Pron does not rename it, but it portrays it, which is better: in the first pages of «Tomorrow we will have other names» we attended the end of a couple relationship that maintained two characters that we will only know as He and She -to not take them affection or because they could be any of us-, to attend, later, to their separation after four years of coexistence. She, an architect, is afraid to make plans for the future and has wielded a reason as easy as false: a lover. He, essay writer, is baffled by a new reality that he does not know, that he does not know how to compute. With these wickers is a love-romance novel that is nothing more than a milennial inquiry about the mutation of relationships, social networks and here I catch you-here I kill sentimental.

The trap of emotions

But the author does not stop at grief, desolation or abandonment, but in the situation of the urban, hyperkinetic and western world, where the relations are not sincere and they adhere to the laws of the market as if they were actions on the Stock Market. . In this way, the story reaches an almost epiphanic end through a path of analytical and inquisitive tiles in which every scathing paragraph serves to reinforce not a few reflections that we all make about the Internet, the «fake» relations »,« fake »friends», the volatility of being and its environment, the possible collapse of monogamy and the futility of polyamory. Pron plays with us. It makes us identify and curse every narrative action, every body of its plot, until we stay in anyone's territory. In the middle of nowhere. As if we had been expelled from all lists of WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram at the same time and deported to a "liquid" world.

It is not trivial that he is a writer and she is an architect, both creative professions, because, although they rarely touch the artistic theme, it gives them a conscious sense of their social environment, their present and those around them. Another thing is that they achieve it. The mission of the novelist is to give an account of reality and Pron knows how to offer it to us with real skill.

About the Author

Pron has written five books of stories, among which "The world without the people who disfigure it and ruin it"

ideal for…

understand how in a life of emergency, virtual relationships overcome the real, as Bauman says

a defect

None remarkable

a virtue

Can tell us clearly the uncertain times in which we live




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