In a vaguely Faulknerian backwater in French Indochina roiled by oppressive heat, oppressive poverty and just the faintest glimmer of incest as a possible avenue of escape for at least one of the three main characters, the unnamed la mère, her 20-year old son Joseph and her 16-year old daughter Suzanne are all desperately looking for a way out after the mother has lost her life savings on a plot of worthless floodland as the price to pay for her chance to settle in the colony...surely a high water mark of sorts both within Duras' own impressive body of work and within the annals of the postcolonial novel as a whole, the aesthetic brutality of the prose in Un barragecontre le Pacifique [The Sea Wall] is both less elliptical and maybe more punishing than usual with Duras--style taking a backseat to theme if you will...lest the lack of experimentation scare off fans accustomed to later Duras, suffice it to say that in a novel whose narrative tension derives in large part from the train wreck-like spectacle of waiting to see whether the mother or the brother will essentially auction off Suzanne's virginity to the highest bidder, the author doesn't avert her own gaze when it matters--cf. the commodification of the flesh juxtaposition between the native woman who prostitutes herself to put some dried fish on the table for her family and the exploitative tendencies of the French colony characterized as "ce bordel colossal" ["this colossal brothel"] (198) where "Le latex coulait. Le sang aussi" ["The latex flowed. The blood did, too"] (169). Riveting.
Marguerite Duras (1914-1996)
Guy of His Futile Preoccupations recommended The Sea Wall to me a couple of years ago. His review can be found here.
Sorry I didn't get around to posting a link round-up last week. Here's a bonus week's worth of links for you, now including both Spanish- and Portuguese-language literature for the rest of the month. Cheers!
Sendero:Historia de la guerra milenaria en el Perú (Planeta, 2008)
by Gustavo Gorriti
Peru, 1990 & 2008
A probing, meticulously documented but inordinately typo-ridden account of the decade-plus of violence unleashed by the Maoist Sendero Luminoso [Shining Path] insurgent group during "los años de sangre" ["the years of blood"] (146) in '80s and '90s Peru. While it's perhaps to be regretted that investigative journalist Gorriti never got around to finishing the planned first and third volumes of his history that were meant to bookend this one--his work, available in English as The Shining Path: A History of the Millenarian War in Peru, was interrupted by a coup and his subsequent arrest by the intelligence forces of new president Alberto Fujimori before Gorriti eventually found a safe haven abroad--Sendero's unflinching close-up on the first few years of the rebellion is probably more than enough analysis & horror for a standalone volume dedicated to explaining why some 70,000 Peruvians would wind up dead in the crossfire. Worth reading for anyone trying to understand how bourgeois classics like Julius Caesar and Macbeth could be used as part of far left terrorist indoctrination, well worth reading for anyone trying to make some sense out of half-remembered reports of Sendero atrocities such as the one involving the dozens of dead dogs that were left hanging from lampposts in downtown Lima and maybe not worth reading at all for anybody wanting to feel better about his/her fellow man.
Thanks to all of you who read something for or in conjunction with Spanish Lit Month 2017 last week. For those of you still looking to join in on the fun, please note that not only will SLM carry on into August but that Stu has proposed that next month will seamlessly morph into Spanish and Portuguese Lit Month for anyone wanting to add a Brazilian or Portuguese author to the mix. Until then, here's the latest batch of links for your reading and blogging pleasure.
David Hebblethwaite, David's Book World Nevada Days by Bernardo Atxaga
Nick Carter se divierte mientras el lector es asesinado y yo agonizo (Debolsillo, 2012)
by Mario Levrero
In foodie terms, the extravagantly titled Nick Carter se divierte mientras el lector es asesinado y yo agonizo [Nick Carter Has a Good Time While the Reader Is Murdered and I Lie Dying] might best be thought of as a sort of Aira-esque--strike that, pre-Aira-esque--meringue in which the acidic quality of a couple of in poor taste abortion and incest jokes occasionally overwhelms the delicate sugar and egg white flavor of its goofball detective and dime novel parodies. Whatever, kind of a fucked-up meringue! For readers of a non-Saveur persuasion, though, Levrero's 60-something page novella should offer plenty to savor: ongoing random jumps between first-, second- and third-person narration for you arty experimental types, lots of nods to Borges and Kafka and the feuilleton tradition for you highbrow and lowbrow types, and even a strong nymphomaniac secretary character for you strong nymphomaniac secretary character types. In other words, something for almost everyone as clearly demonstrated above without me even having to waste a single precious word on plot!