sábado, 17 de diciembre de 2016

Adulthood Is a Myth (Sarah's Scribbles, #1) - Sarah Andersen


Is adulthood an exciting new challenge for which you feel fully prepared? 

Ugh. Please go away.

I was writing down some thoughts for two reviews, one of a Mishima book and the other of The Bell Jar, but at the moment, I don’t feel like dedicating so much time to that kind of introspection, since in my case, reviewing a book is almost never writing a simple summary. So I will deal with all those books next year, while focusing on other works which are also existentially complex but from a different perspective.


A very different perspective.

In the spirit of the preceding paragraph, I have a shocking revelation to share. I can never participate in the GR Awards. Scandalous, right? I mean, after the Best Poetry debacle, it’s still nice to be able to cast some votes considering that, in general, the most recently published book I have read might have been in the bookshop for twenty years.

Another delightful fact I can find in this little adventure regarding the Best Books of 2016 that I Adulthood is a Myth. The irony makes me chuckle. In any case, and in my opinion since not everyone shares my peculiar sense of humor, it was a fun read. The most hilarious, ridiculous, absurd and to some extent, pathetic aspects of life are depicted through comedy and simple, adorable drawings. Andersen's keen ability to perceive different feelings and situations pertaining to the issue of being human and to portray them with such humorous simplicity… it is certainly remarkable. I’m completely enamored with her work and Allie Brosh and her Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened now share the podium with lovely Andersen.
almost never pay special attention to: the only book to which I could give my precious and humble vote was

Classics, poetry, extremely dark and heart-rending books that may or may not have a happy ending are not enough. Books brimful of humor, wit, ludicrous yet common situations and reactions and with silly covers that I don't dare to show in public are also a part of me. They mend what other things have broken. They make reality taste like fiction for a while. This year I spent time on situations that, in the end, didn’t deserve my attention and a million chances. I can search for my lost time but will never get it back. Still, despite giving too much and receiving über-nothing at times, I would like to end this year with a smile. Perhaps, what I consider a flaw is precisely why I should be smiling.

This charming book won Best Graphic Novels & Comics. I thought of giving a little speech but, you know.


Besides, giving speeches usually precedes a simple meal or large quantities of food and...


...let’s just not tempt fate. So I wrote this nonsense instead, as I also tell you this: Sarah and I will be back in a few days. For now, I’ll keep reading my books and enjoying one of my valid hobbies.



* Credit: Book cover via Goodreads.
All pictures from Adulthood Is a Myth (Sarah's Scribbles, #1) by Sarah Andersen.

domingo, 11 de diciembre de 2016

Poems Under Saturn: Poèmes saturniens (Lockert Library of Poetry in Translation) - Paul Verlaine, Karl Kirchwey (Translator)


Sentimental Stroll

The setting sun cast its final rays
And the breeze rocked the pale water lilies;
Among the reeds, the huge water
Lilies shone sadly on the calm water.
Me, I wandered alone, walking my wound
Through the willow grove, the length of the pond
Where the vague mist conjured up some vast
Despairing milky ghost
With the voice of teals crying
As they called to each other, beating their wings
Through the willow grove where I alone wandered
Walking my wound; and the thick shroud
Of shadows came to drown the final rays
Of the setting sun in their pale waves
And, among the reeds, the water
Lilies, the huge water lilies on the calm water.


Promenade sentimentale

Le couchant dardait ses rayons suprêmes
Et le vent berçait les nénuphars blêmes;
Les grands nénuphars entre les roseaux,
Tristement luisaient sur les calmes eaux.
Moi, j’errais tout seul, promenant ma plaie
Au long de l’étang, parmi la saulaie
Où la brume vague évoquait un grand
Fantôme laiteux se désespérant
Et pleurant avec la voix des sarcelles
Qui se rappelaient en battant des ailes
Parmi la saulaie où j’errais tout seul
Promenant ma plaie; et l’épais linceul
Des ténèbres vint noyer les suprêmes
Rayons du couchant dans ses ondes blêmes
Et des nénuphars, parmi les roseaux,
Des grands nénuphars sur les calmes eaux.

Verlaine, observer and blind, creator and destroyer; a poet made of light and shadows. A parallel between this author and Rimbaud's poetry is predictable but ineluctable. Undoubtedly, while I liked the young poet's sophisticated song of perpetual revolt and mystifying symbols, I was able to connect with Verlaine's art on a deeper level (also young when he wrote this collection), as he also unveiled all aspects of human nature—both sublime and decadent, depending on the eye of the beholder—with sheer beauty, sumptuous symbolism and a clear voice whose melody resonated with me several times, creating evocative images which may portray every emotion we are capable of feeling. 

 * Photo credit: Book cover via Goodreads.

viernes, 9 de diciembre de 2016

San Manuel Bueno, Martir - Miguel de Unamuno


I don’t know what is true and what is a lie, nor what I saw, or what I dreamed—or rather what I dreamed and what I only saw—nor what I knew, nor what I believed. I don’t know if I am transferring my consciousness to this paper as white as snow, and if it will remain there, leaving me without it. Why should I still keep it…? Do I know anything?; do I believe anything? Has what I am writing about here really happened, and did it happen like I am telling it? Can things like these really happen? Is this just a dream, within another dream?

A priest, a village, faith and doubts.
I could write many paragraphs about this short novel, but I would be repeating¹ myself

First time I read Unamuno's prose. Definitely not the last.
You can find this little gem online. Spanish - English


* Photo credit: Book cover via Goodreads.

jueves, 10 de noviembre de 2016

Dibaxu - Juan Gelman


This is a bilingual Ladino-Castellano poetry collection written by acclaimed Argentine poet Juan dibaxu, a Sephardic term that means “under”. The title already conveys the complex universe the reader may find under the veil of a seeming simplicity; a deluge of obstreperous feelings said in an undertone. The past, love, confusion, countless sensations, strong desires, empty spaces, a search for a homeland – roots with which I fail to identify, once more.
Gelman, published in 1994. He decided to call it
In this book, Gelman's poems first appear in Ladino and then in Spanish; I'll follow the same order, including the English translation afterwards.
tu boz sta escura
di bezus qui a mí no dieras/
di bezus qui a mí no das/
la nochi es polvu dest'ixiliu/
tu voz está oscura
de besos que no me diste/
de besos que no me das/
la noche es polvo de este exilio/
your voice is dark
of kisses that you did not give to me/
of kisses that you do not give to me/
night is dust from this exile/

The act of revealing real emotions – an act often fraught with ineffable difficulty – never looked so simple. Gelman masterfully expresses in a few words, everything that sometimes requires numerous pages and that tangible concept of fleeting nature we call time; everything that emerges from the depths of love, regret,
amarti es istu:
un avla qui va a dizer/
un arvulicu sin folyas
qui da solombra/
amarte es esto:
una palabra que está por decir/
un arbolito sin hojas
que da sombra/
loving you is this:
a word that is about to speak/
a small tree without leaves
that provides shade/

Through unique and recurring imagery and a naturally distinctive cadence, he places the reader inside his mind; our mind, that inhospitable region where dreams and yearnings continue to accumulate in secrecy, longing for emotional impetus. Concise lines that belong to a bigger picture, a fragmented reality; lines that are accompanied by the use of somewhat distracting slashes, part of the author's individual style.
dizis avlas cun árvulis
tenin folyas qui cantan
y páxarus
qui adjuntan sol/

tu silenziu
lus gritus
dil mundu/
dices palabras con árboles/
tienen hojas que cantan
y pájaros
que juntan sol/

tu silencio
los gritos
del mundo/
you say words with trees/
they have leaves that sing
and birds
that gather sun/

your silence
the cries
of the world/

Gelman's poetry reveals itself without any affectation; some things are open to interpretation but amid so much comforting frankness, they are so, so clear. He voices his thoughts with simple yet evocative metaphors and a pithy language which defies any traditional rule.
His thoughts, thus, are diaphanous as fire.

pondrí mi spantu londji/
dibaxu dil pasadu/
qui arde
cayadu com'il sol/
pondré mi espanto lejos/
debajo del pasado/
que arde
callado como el sol/
i will set my fear afar/
underneath the past/
that burns
silent as the sun/


* Photo credit: Book cover via Goodreads.

viernes, 4 de noviembre de 2016

Illuminations - Arthur Rimbaud

I. Sunday

When homework is done, the inevitable descent from heaven and the visitation of
memories, and the session of rhythms invade the dwelling, the head and the world of the spirit.
—A horse scampers off along the suburban turf and the gardens and the wood lots, besieged by the carbonic plague. Somewhere in the world, a wretched melodramatic woman is sighing for unlikely desertions.
Desperadoes are languishing for storms, drunkenness, wounds. Little children are stifling curses along the rivers.
I must study some more to the sound of the consuming work which forms in all the people and rises up in them.

II. Sonnet
Man of usual constitution, wasn't the flesh a fruit hanging in the orchard? —O childhood days!—wasn't the body a treasure to spend?—wasn't love the peril or the strength of Psyche? ... 

* Photo credit: Book cover via Goodreads.

viernes, 28 de octubre de 2016

The Departure of the Train - Clarice Lispector


Yes. She’d already had plenitude. When she and Eduardo were so in love that while in the same bed, holding hands, they had felt life was complete. Few people have known plenitude. And, because plenitude is also an explosion, she and Eduardo had cowardly begun to live “normally.” Because you can’t prolong ecstasy without dying. They separated for a pointless, semi-invented reason: they didn’t want to die of passion. Plenitude is one of those truths you happen upon.

Dona Maria Rita
The old woman, as if she’d received a mental transmission, was thinking: don’t let them leave me alone. How old am I exactly? Oh I don’t even know anymore.

Right afterward she let the thought drain away. And she was peacefully nothing. She hardly existed. It was good that way, very good indeed. Plunges into the nothing.

Near the end? Oh, how it hurts to die. In life you suffer but you’re holding on to something: ineffable life. And as for the question of death? You mustn’t be afraid: go forward, always.


Like the train.


A train that I wouldn't want to leave behind, now that I have Lispector's torrent of thoughts flooding every corner of my mind.

* Photo credit: Book cover via Goodreads.

jueves, 13 de octubre de 2016

The Guest Cat - Takashi Hiraide

...observation is at its core an expression of love which doesn’t get caught up in sentiment.

Those green eyes glowing in the dark ceaselessly, endowing the cover of this book with a breath of life, a dream of plenitude - those eyes were an irresistible enticement. An immediate move was imperative; The Guest Cat had to be on my shelf. Unfortunately, my expectations were far too great, especially taking into account the fact that one of the ingredients of this plot is supposed to be a couple who no longer have much to say to each other and a cat is a new bond between them. (view spoiler). However, I was able to overlook that curious fact because this novella has other qualities that make it a potentially enjoyable read. Hiraide's writing is an ode to the beauty of simplicity.

As an artist meticulously amalgamates the elements of nature with the essential constituents of humanity through the art of ikebana, with the same quiet harmony, carefully selected words interweave with a sensitive and thoughtful outlook on life, creating a luscious prose poem echoing the implacable passage of time.

She would always point out to us the importance of being natural, of being ourselves.

As most Japanese novels I have read, there is an exquisite attention to detail; everything and everyone are depicted with strokes of the most elegant form of poetry in which intimacy, an unusually expressive intimacy is a significant component. The simplicity of this story blends in perfectly with the sheer delicacy of Hiraide's language which flows softly, in a whisper; a gentle wave trying to reach somebody's shores and engulf them with meaningful contemplation.

What's interesting about animals, my wife explained, is that even though a cat may be a cat, in the end, each individual has its own character.

“For me, Chibi is a friend with whom I share an understanding, and who just happens to have taken on the form of a cat.”

Never such a poignantly lyrical prose sounded so familiar.
Funny, these aversions we have for certain things. It does make you wonder a bit whether it's some kind of karmic connection with a past-life experience, even if that's just a bit too weird.

Nonetheless, Hiraide's writing wasn't enough. This novella tells a lovely story but didn't resonate with me as much as I would have hoped. Highly evocative, this writer's words become palpable objects and serene sceneries, but amid copious descriptions of any architectural piece one may imagine and abundant lines – ranging from the ethereal to the mundane – regarding the couple's relationship with the cat and their surroundings, something was missing. I remember turning the last page and looking through the window, as if I could find out there, in the vast city, in the overcast skies, whatever it is that I couldn't find in this book.

* Photo credit: Book cover via Goodreads.
Ikebana via conyeucuaban.com
Cat and flower via Pinterest

sábado, 1 de octubre de 2016

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World - Haruki Murakami

And I couldn't be any other self but my self. Could I?

There is always a possibility.

In the summer of 1962, a poet wrote a song that would later become the last hymn to be heard as the
end of the world approached. That is the song I chose to be my companion while writing another non-review; a song that is being followed closely by the mellifluous gusts of wind that break the silence of this monochromatic night.
Being my first Murakami, quite frankly, I didn't know what to expect. This is, without a doubt, one of the most original novels I have read this year. And I can't only ascribe this notion to the creativity of the plot, since the variations of the language used to illustrate it were another element that left me quite impressed.
I felt disconnected. Converting numbers in my brain was my only connection to the world. Most of my free time I chose to spend alone, reading old novels, watching old Hollywood movies on video, drinking. I had no need for a newspaper.

For a moment, I walked out of the comfort zone provided by classics and plunged into the world of more contemporary expressions in which I still feel like a slightly awkward guest. Murakami's writing stirred my senses from beginning to end. It did justice to the concept that was always hovering over this story: the duality of things around us, the dichotomies within ourselves. For this is a book that includes two different worlds that may or may not coalesce into one single reality someday. The first world is “Hard-Boiled Wonderland”, where I found a peculiar voice; a somewhat stark, unvarnished writing. Words that tried to conceal the tiniest trace of emotional connection, congenitally unable to do otherwise. Detached words probably under the influence of an old pledge to keep distance from the world as a desperate attempt to protect themselves, to prevent their fragile system from blowing to smithereens. Words uttered by a narrator who was able to drink gallons of alcohol and then face inconceivably difficult situations and the most disgusting creatures ever, while thinking about sex on every given situation but still capable of disclosing colorful beads of a philosophical nature, which he tried to camouflage with waves of indifference, or rather fear wearing the translucent robes of indifference.
Who remembers stars? Come to think of it, had I even looked up at the sky recently? Had the stars been wiped out of the sky three months ago, I wouldn't have known... My world foreshortened, flattening into a credit card. Seen head on, things seemed merely skewed, but from the side the view was virtually meaningless—a one-dimensional wafer. Everything about me may have been crammed in there, but it was only plastic. Indecipherable except to some machine.

The second world is, ironically enough, “The End of the World”, where Murakami's writing acquires a more expressive tone with which places and people are vividly portrayed. There, a narrator depicts a seemingly perfect world echoing an ancient nirvana, an empty world, a tempting world; descriptions that also convey one significant distinction: everything might be happening now. Only living will remain. Undisturbed, peaceful living.
Facts unfold following the familiar cadences of a foreign narrative and I – stunned, in deep thought, marveled at how every piece falls into the right place, slowly, cautiously, with desperate detachment and stoic passion until the puzzle is almost complete – contemplate once more how life bifurcates and reveals two realities intrinsically different and yet strongly connected: one belongs to the actual world and the other to the realm of the mind. Everything might be connected in this world surrounded by walls . But then again, perhaps everything is an illusion, nothing is connected and we are truly alone. Hopefully, that too could be another figment of one's imagination.
You tell me there is no fighting or hatred or desire in the Town. That is a beautiful dream, and I do want your happiness. But the absence of fighting or hatred or desire also means the opposites do not exist either.

Despite the differences that perhaps exist only in the mind of this inexperienced reader, both forms of writing converge eventually. That is what made me change my opinion, since four solid stars became a glimmering 5-star rating after reaching to a certain point amid the distinctive ebb and flow of this novel. From that moment on – a moment which I will keep to myself, hoping you find yours – an unbridled desire to know more took over my body and I couldn't put this book down until it was over. Shortly after, I realized the mistake I had made, since I wasn't prepared for the billows of emotions that were about to sweep away every vestige of a former calm. (Not many are able to resist the allurements of the literary anxiety.)
That's the way with the mind. Nothing is ever equal. Like a river, as it flows, the course changes with the terrain.

After stepping in the middle of seven sad forests, and being out in front of a dozen dead oceans, questions began to haunt me, relentlessly, until some invaded my whole being and there one still lingers, for I haven't found any word willing to form a decent answer.
Here, in the palm of my hand, I have the story of a man facing an impending fate, remembering distant errors that will never be mend, old lyrics and classic scenes, the discrepancies between desire and reality, between who we are and who we would like to be; the little we say, the echoes of regret through the mountains of things unsaid; the departure from a world with the aftertaste of nothingness to enter one resembling everything. Despair, disillusionment, hell, reality; himself. Love, fear – love. Multiple shades of existence encapsulated in twenty-four hours. A woman, a song, the park under the sun. Some limited happiness had been granted this limited life. One last peal of a winter bell. The sounds of the end of the world.


Could I have given happiness to anyone else?

* Photo credit: Book cover via Goodreads. 
Snow and sun via wallhere.com

martes, 20 de septiembre de 2016

En memoria de Paulina - Adolfo Bioy Casares


-Dante: Goodbye, dear master.
-Virgil: How come! What about Purgatory? And Paradise?
-Dante: For what! He who knew Hell does not have any interest in Purgatory. And regarding Paradise, he already knows it is the absence of hell.

-Dante: Adiós, dulce maestro.
-Virgilio: ¡Cómo! ¿Y el Purgatorio? ¿Y el Paraíso?
-Dante: ¡Para qué! Quien conoció el Infierno ya no tiene ningún interés en el Purgatorio. Y respecto al Paraíso, sabe que es la ausencia de infierno.

~ Marco Denevi, “A la salida del Infierno” (“At the gates of Hell”)

Last weekend, I've been reading (shocking!), ferociously, completely oblivious to time and eventually to the sudden hot weather; sudden and alarming, since the sun looked rather ominous, making me think about those summer days that will soon come, whose intense heat annually deprives me of the possibility of functioning on a basic human level. In any case, after pushing those abominable climatic thoughts away, I continued to read short stories written by Argentine authors. (Naturally, I read at a faster pace in Spanish; I found a couple of terms I wasn't familiar with, but they didn't slow down the process.) I revisited the multitudinous universe of one unique Jorge Luis Borges, I fondly remembered my journey with Julio Cortázar, I listened to Silvina Ocampo's disturbingly cryptic accounts, I took a nap by dint of Esteban Echeverría's poetry and dreamed about the world of gauchos through Ricardo Güiraldes' eyes, I woke up and became acquainted with Leopoldo Lugones' fantastic narratives and with Roberto Arlt's exceptional creativity, I found another gem by Uruguayan writer Horacio Quiroga, I ended up massively confused by Haroldo Conti's simplicity, I grew accustomed to Marco Denevi's playful approaches to extremely formal affairs, I saw a plethora of thoughts passing through Liliana Heker's mind, I joined Manuel Mujica Láinez on his search for the true nature of people, and I had the opportunity to savor again the ambrosial prose of Adolfo Bioy Casares.
This particular short story called “In memory of Paulina” symbolizes the tension between love and jealousy, as magic rationally steps into the characters' world.
Paulina me dijo: Me gusta el azul, me gustan las uvas, me gusta el hielo, me gustan las rosas, me gustan los caballos blancos. Yo comprendí que mi felicidad había empezado, porque en esas preferencias podía identificarme con Paulina...
Pensé también: En lo que me parezca a Paulina estoy a salvo. Veía (y aún hoy veo) la identificación con Paulina como la mejor posibilidad de mi ser, como el refugio en donde me libraría de mis defectos naturales, de la torpeza, de la negligencia, de la vanidad.

Paulina said to me: “I like blue, I like grapes, I like ice, I like roses, I like white horses.”  And I knew that my happiness had begun because these preferences of Paulina’s were also mine...
I also thought: “I am safe as long as I resemble Paulina.” I saw (and see even now) identification with Paulina as the best possibility for my own being, as the refuge in which I would be freed of my natural defects, of my obtuseness, my negligence, my vanity.

I often get lost in the world of foreign literature, unintentionally neglecting the treasures I have in my own land.

* Photo credit: Book cover via Goodreads.

viernes, 2 de septiembre de 2016

No Longer Human - Osamu Dazai, Donald Keene (Translator)



They say that “time assuages”,—
Time never did assuage;
An actual suffering strengthens,
As sinews do, with age.

Time is a test of trouble,
But not a remedy.
If such it prove, it prove too
There was no malady.

Emily Dickinson, Part Four: Time and Eternity, The Complete Poems


Everything passes. (169)

A gentle breeze brushes the branches of luxuriant trees brimming with cherry blossoms which surround the quaint park bench I chose as my reading spot. A diaphanous cloud softly attached to the sun creates the sensation of being part of a watercolor painting bound to become the antithesis of an actual winter day. Away from the bustle of an anonymous city, from the thoughts that keep accumulating after roaming awkwardly around the mind, trying to repress relentless pangs of sadness. The only sound I would like to hear is the one pages make as they silently turn in order to unfold this heartrending story; one page after the other, reverberating through the Gardens, ensuring the quietude which, by virtue of a book's mere presence, clears my mind completely. If only for a few hours. Or for the briefest minute unable to last sixty wretched seconds.
I wonder if I have actually been happy.

No Longer Human, published in 1948, is a timeless piece of writing that portrays the sense of disqualified as a human being.
isolation of Oba Yozo, a confused child who became a troubled man; roughly, a deceitful person unable to show his true nature to most people, a man
The book is mostly composed of three memoranda; the last one is divided into two parts. Dazai interwove significant personal experiences into his writing; it was somewhat striking to identify those autobiographical aspects as I read our tormented protagonist's story.

The first memorandum is about Yozo's childhood. From an early age, he felt overwhelmed by a profound sense of alienation, which was increased by the presence of his overbearing father. In the end, incapable of understanding human beings, confused by their selfishness and artificial personalities, he steps into the world and becomes another unauthentic person, begetting the perception of having a jocose and amusing manner in the eyes of people around him. In his mind, such farce was the only way he could find to face the creatures he feared the most: humans. As these attempts take place, he ends up harboring a feeling many of us are familiar with but, in another display of egotism triggered by human condition, perhaps the limitations of our surroundings, we tend to think we are the only ones feeling that way.
All I feel are the assaults of apprehension and terror at the thought that I am the only who is entirely unlike the rest. It is almost impossible for me to converse with other people. What should I talk about, how should I say it? – I don't know.

I could connect with some of Yozo's reflections, naturally. I am not someone who immediately trusts in people, especially after many close encounters with disappointment. In that sense, I understood completely the character's reasons for keeping his agonies locked in his chest, imbued with a persistent sense of mistrust. Nevertheless, I could never endorse his absolute insincerity towards everybody. It is impossible not to take this book to everyday life; how distressing it must be to interact with someone so irrationally fearful and indecisive, unwilling to respond when another person tries to reach out, incapable of seeing his ability to actually love. Yozo's feigned emotions, which culminated with the perfect role of the farcical eccentric, somehow shielded the people who cared about him from his recurrent fears, though the element he chose to protect himself (and them, who knows) was deception.

The second memorandum is mostly about the continuation of Yozo's self-destructive behavior, which by then included excessive drinking, smoking and many encounters with prostitutes (to whom he dedicates some degrading observations). Until he finds a woman who makes him feel, for the first time, as if he had freed himself from fear and uneasiness. He didn't feel the need to hide his gloomy disposition. Unfortunately, things rapidly started to go awry.
The weak fear happiness itself.

Even though he had many love affairs, one thing did not change: he was equally cruel to all women who cared about him (view spoiler). The seemingly cogent arguments and plausible excuses to justify his actions are infinite. In any case, the results were indelible wounds and irreparable consequences.
“You look like someone who's had an unhappy childhood. You're so sensitive–more's the pity for you.”

That same memorandum also reflects the conflicts that are present in human relationships in the context of an adverse socio-economic status. At one point, the humiliation of not being able to provide for a woman was insufferable; the last straw that culminated in another mistake.

The third memorandum chronicles the protagonist's late twenties.

Several ambivalent feelings arise from reading about a character such as Yozo. I was able to comprehend some of his fears and his genuine sense of alienation, though other times I saw him as an inconsiderate man who epitomized cruelty and selfishness.
After a life of lying to himself and to others, Yozo chooses to write about his miseries and atrocious acts without a shred of falseness. Without resorting to any sentimentality – in contrast to his entire existence, his notebooks do not try to please anyone – he tells his story without engaging in unavailing circumlocution, elegantly gliding to the brink of brutal honesty as he circumvents every rule of an ostensibly civilized world. Despite the stark writing style which predominated in the novel, Dazai endowed it with not only plentiful profound meditations which may resonate with many readers around the globe, but with an exquisite language reminiscent of wistful fragments of poetry written in some bleak hotel room. There is no rhapsody of praise to nature, no writer simply extolling the virtues of silence. This novel is a one-way ticket to a person's psyche. Indubitably, a memorable journey since Dazai's words might linger in the vicinity of one's mind for far too long.
Unhappiness. There are all kinds of unhappy people in this world. I suppose it would be no exaggeration to say that the world is composed entirely of unhappy people. But those people can fight their unhappiness with society fairly and squarely, and society for its part easily understands and sympathizes with such struggles. My unhappiness stemmed entirely from my own vices, and I had no way of fighting anybody... Am I what they call and egoist? Or am I the opposite, a man of excessively weak spirit? I really don't know myself, but since I seem in either case to be a mass of vices, I drop steadily, inevitably, into unhappiness, and I have no specific plan to stave off my descent.

Selfishness or a weak spirit. I am not in the position to ascertain to which of those personalities Yozo belongs. Recently, I stumbled upon a quote by Jane Austen (which can be found in her novel Mansfield Park) that makes me ponder his situation, since it states the following: “Selfishness must always be forgiven, you know, because there is no hope of a cure.” In that context, Austen only refers to selfishness; she is not as bold as one M. de Norpois (I just met him so I still don't know what to think of him) who declared once that for every sin there is forgiveness.
We all carry within us some degree of egoism – in fact, it can be seen as another defense mechanism regarding the protection of one's heart; I should know. But of course, some humans are replete with it. So much so that sometimes they might seem incapable of feeling pain, as they might do everything in their power to avoid it, regardless of the pain they are inflicting on others. To me, Yozo's case is somewhat paradigmatic; he relied on his antics to deceive people – and thereby being able to deal with them – instead of turning to superficially veracious words he never meant to say or a perpetual pusillanimous silence. Either way, Yozo suffers; he is not a pretender who thinks that being unable to fit into society is something that makes him special. It makes him truly unhappy. However, fighting for our existence is certainly not impossible; as a matter of fact, it is a more reasonable plan than sitting comfortably, feeling miserable and just waiting for the world's gaping maw to tear us apart.
I thought, “As long as I can make them laugh, it doesn’t matter how, I’ll be alright. If I succeed in that, the human beings probably won’t mind it too much if I remain outside their lives. The one thing I must avoid is becoming offensive in their eyes: I shall be nothing, the wind, the sky.”

Unlike Austen, I can't say for sure that there is no hope of a cure. The idealistic within me, breathing optimism and naivety daily, will claim that there is. The cynical within me, a little bruised due to some unpleasant experiences in life, will guarantee that, in reality, there is no remedy for such unfortunate malady. Despite this state of uncertainty, I agree with the first part of Austen's statement; we should forgive. As Dickinson's poem continues to echo in my head, the thought that time alone doesn't heal all wounds resounds just as much; indeed, it is what we do with that time that may alleviate certain symptoms. Forgiveness is an active way to deal with anything that once caused a small cut or unfathomable pain. It is not only part of a process which is essential to avoid hardening one's heart, it is also a humane way to treat others, even those whose actions leave a bittersweet aftertaste, even if I am not forgiven. Not that the world needs my foolish perspectives in the form of endless paragraphs of little merit, of course, but I for one choose to forgive, and that decision is made taking into consideration, among other things, the possibility that such cure, in fact, does not exist. I wouldn't want to magnify the weight of the cross that some people have to carry around, for the absence of said remedy might be already too harsh a punishment.

I turn the last page and the previous luminous scenery metamorphoses into a typical winter day. Storm clouds are already appearing above the horizon; they will soon cover these empty cherry trees, and me. I walk back home, trying not to think about the intense sky's azure, the park bench, the limpid lake I never mentioned, the cherry blossoms, the tragedy of being no longer human. Trying not to think.
Indomitable thoughts.

* Photo credit: Book cover via Goodreads.

martes, 16 de agosto de 2016

Los Heraldos Negros - César Vallejo



The heart of a poet usually brims with love, misery; both. In that sense, a great assortment of
struggles emerges, echoing the burden of the indecisive soul. The feeling of being absorbed, captured by the vicissitudes of everyday life, the unexpected events of a predictable occupation. Existential gaps for which no bridge seems to be enough. Love gliding down a mountainside. Incomplete, unwanted, evanescent.
The kind of love that runs through the veins of a poet – in this case, César Vallejo – seems incomprehensible. Since its obscurity mystifies me, I occasionally end up losing interest. I can't relate to it that much. Sometimes, I don't even try. Other times, I wished I hadn't.
Melancolía, dejame de secarme la vida.
“Avestruz” (21)

My first Vallejo. I enjoyed reading the poems I was able to connect with, naturally; not many but enough. This poet thoroughly explored themes such as religion and love in a book published in 1918. It was his first book and still, there is a halo of maturity in his work. This collection has been named after the first poem, "Los Heraldos Negros" ("The Black Heralds"); its beauty and complexity explains such honor. Its verses, shrouded in mystique, illustrate how Vallejo links the human sorrow and disappointment to several religious images, as he ascribes some misfortunes to the amalgamation of free will and the activity (or lack of it) of a supreme being. There is a palpable sense of loss and guilt in a world where explanations are everything but perspicuous. His harrowing “I don't know!” breaks the silence and leaves me wondering about that enigmatic poet; the possibility that everything might have always been in his hands.
Los Heraldos Negros
Hay golpes en la vida, tan fuertes... ¡Yo no sé!
Golpes como del odio de Dios; como si ante ellos,
la resaca de todo lo sufrido
se empozara en el alma. ¡Yo no sé!

Son pocos; pero son. Abren zanjas oscuras
en el rostro más fiero y en el lomo más fuerte.
Serán tal vez los potros de bárbaros atilas;
o los heraldos negros que nos manda la Muerte.

Son las caídas hondas de los Cristos del alma,
de alguna fe adorable que el Destino blasfema.
Estos golpes sangrientos son las crepitaciones
de algún pan que en la puerta del horno se nos quema.

Y el hombre. Pobre. ¡Pobre! Vuelve los ojos, como
cuando por sobre el hombro nos llama una palmada;
vuelve los ojos locos, y todo lo vivido
se empoza, como charco de culpa, en la mirada.

Hay golpes en la vida, tan fuertes. ¡Yo no sé!


The Black Heralds
There are blows in life, so powerful… I don't know!
Blows as from the hatred of God; as if, facing them,
the undertow of everything suffered
welled up in the soul… I don't know!

They are few; but they are… They open dark trenches
in the fiercest face and in the strongest back.
Perhaps they are the colts of barbaric Attilas;
or the black heralds sent to us by Death.

They are the deep falls of the Christs of the soul,
of some adored faith blasphemed by Destiny.
Those bloodstained blows are the crackling of
bread burning up at the oven door.

And man… Poor… poor! He turns his eyes, as
when a slap on the shoulder summons us;
turns his crazed eyes, and everything lived
wells up, like a pool of guilt, in his look.

There are blows in life, so powerful… I don't know! (11)

Logically evocative, irrationally beautiful. Most of Vallejo's poems deal with universal themes such as love, death, fate, absurdity, his land and customs; often taking refuge in religion, which is generally used to portray human existence amid an ocean of uncertainties; the ebb and flow of meanings and indifference. The chimeric balance between our choices and predestination. The sense of a futile quest. A tiresome undertaking fueled by our adamant nature. An unavoidable instinct. A boulder rolling up and down, unceasingly.
Yo nací un día
que Dios estuvo enfermo.

...Hay un vacío
en mi aire metafísico
que nadie ha de palpar:
el claustro de un silencio
que habló a flor de fuego...


I was born on a day
when God was sick.

...There is an empty place
in my metaphysical shape
that no one can reach:
a cloister of silence
that spoke with the fire of its voice muffled... (81)

As I mentioned before, excessive amounts of religious references/praises don't keep me interested for a long time. That is the reason some poems captivated me while others were somewhat tedious to me. Nevertheless, the following poem demonstrates this writer's brilliance.
Los Anillos Fatigados
Hay ganas de volver, de amar, de no ausentarse,
y hay ganas de morir, combatido por dos
aguas encontradas que jamás han de istmarse.

Hay ganas: de un gran beso que amortaje a la Vida,
que acaba en el áfrica de una agonía ardiente,

Hay ganas de... no tener ganas. Señor;
a ti yo te señalo. con el dedo deicida:
hay ganas de no haber tenido corazón.

La primavera vuelve, vuelve y se irá. Y Dios,
curvado en tiempo, se repite, y pasa:  pasa:
a cuestas con la espina dorsal del Universo.

Cuando, las sienes tocan su lúgubre tambor...
cuando me duele el sueño grabado en un puñal,
hay ganas de quedarse plantado en este verso!


Weary rings
There are desires to return, to love, to not disappear,
and there are desires to die, fought by two
opposing waters that have never isthmused.

There are desires for a great kiss that would shroud Life,
one that ends in the Africa of a fiery agony,
a suicide!

There are desires to... have no desires, Lord;
I point my deicidal finger at you:
there are desires to not have had a heart.

Spring returns, returns and will depart. And God,
bent in time, repeats himself, and passes, passes
with the spinal column of the Universe on his back.

When my temples beat their lugubrious drum,
when the dream engraved on a dagger aches me,
there are desires to be left standing in this verse! (69)

Poetry, Vallejo's defense. A reproach, a devotional song, a wistful contemplation.

Melancholy, stop drying up my life.
"Ostrich" (21)

 * Photo credit: Book cover via Goodreads.

domingo, 31 de julio de 2016

The Mark on the Wall - Virginia Woolf


Woolf finds a small mark on the wall and transforms it into a deluge of thoughts – perfectly connected, exquisitely disjointed – that grabs one's soul and tears it asunder, just to repair it by the end of her story, of her interior monologue, leaving the scars of memory and possibility forever burning inside one's head. My favorite kind of writing. A writer gives you her thoughts, and the need for a complex plot vanishes into thin air.
The tree outside the window taps very gently on the pane ... I want to think quietly, calmly, spaciously, never to be interrupted, never to have to rise from my chair, to slip easily from one thing to another, without any sense of hostility, or obstacle. I want to sink deeper and deeper, away from the surface, with its hard separate facts.

But thoughts have no owner, they answer to no master. So when you can't think of trees, a pleasant thing to think about according to Woolf, don't worry, there’s no harm in putting a full stop to one’s disagreeable thoughts by looking at a mark on the wall. Only for a while, though. The thought of spending an entire life just looking at a mark on the wall, ah, what a dreadful thought.

 * Photo credit: Book cover via Goodreads.

lunes, 25 de julio de 2016

W. B. Yeats: Selected Poems - W.B. Yeats

The last stroke of midnight dies.
All day in the one chair
From dream to dream and rhyme to rhyme I have
In rambling talk with an image of air:
Vague memories, nothing but memories.

— W.B. Yeats, “Broken Dreams”, The Wild Swans at Coole (1919)

From the depths of anything mysterious and unfathomable, here come bursts of poetry moving across the years, making impressions with an assortment of intensities and kaleidoscopic visualizations: W.B. Yeats and his unique art. This collection includes verses clear as an Irish summer day; impenetrable as another human soul. And that is the crux of the matter: the complexity to be found in Yeats' poetry may be perceived as utterly beautiful or absolutely inscrutable; a colorful enigma sometimes tiptoeing to the brink of tedium. The most readable thing here is the formidable introduction that tries to shed some light on this poet's work.

A poet in love, a poet in misery. His mind, burdened with the familiar weight of unrequited love – embodied by the fierce Maud Gonne, a woman who enchanted him with her beauty and frankness and became his long-time muse – and heavily influenced by the political scenario of his country, brought different styles to life, which are clearly seen in this selection. Poems replete with love, ideals and disillusion, longing and unhappiness, a fervent nationalism, the loud and the implicit, life and the ruins that time, unapologetically, leaves behind; copious amounts of symbolism, mystique, folklore, question marks... and diverse techniques that never cease to amaze, as the richness of his language. So, when you make some sense out of all those elements, ah, a real treat. I wish that would have happened more often. Perhaps, if I had been steeped in Irish history and mythology, it would have been easier for me to understand, his earlier work in particular. Unfortunately, most of this iconic poet's work didn't resonate with me that much. I did find some memorable poems I read many times, notably some of his later years, whose reflections on human existence, age and death are hauntingly evocative. For that is also what this book encapsulates: an entire life. It perfectly depicts the evolution of a man and his mind; his first steps and the pinnacle of his art.

I think I will revisit this book someday. Ever since I've read one of his plays, I became very fond of his exquisitely lyrical language. It was only fair to assume I was going to love his poetry. (?) But I didn't; I loved a couple of poems but overall, I liked it, and I struggled; therefore, I can't give this a 4/5-star rating just to, you know, look good in front of my fellow poetry lovers.
This is one of the few times I feel morally obligated to carry out some sort of brief analysis based on ratings of a poetry collection that wasn't exactly what I expected. It must be the echo of my own guilt.

From Crossways (1889)


From The Rose (1893)

When You Are Old
When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

The Two Trees

Gaze no more in the bitter glass
The demons, with their subtle guile,
Lift up before us when they pass,
Or only gaze a little while;
For there a fatal image grows
That the stormy night receives,
Roots half hidden under snows,
Broken boughs and blackened leaves.
For all things turn to barrenness
In the dim glass the demons hold,
The glass of outer weariness,
Made when God slept in times of old.


From The Wind Among the Reeds (1899)

The Secret Rose
...I, too, await
The hour of thy great wind of love and hate.


From In the Seven Woods (1903)


From The Green Helmet and Other Poems (1910)

No Second Troy

Was there another Troy for her to burn?


But, dear, cling close to me; since you were gone,
My barren thoughts have chilled me to the bone.


From Responsibilities (1914)

September 1913

Romantic Ireland's dead and gone,
It's with O'Leary in the grave.

Beggar to Beggar Cried
'Time to put off the world and go somewhere
And find my health again in the sea air,'
Beggar to beggar cried, being frenzy-struck,
'And make my soul before my pate is bare.-

'And get a comfortable wife and house
To rid me of the devil in my shoes,'
Beggar to beggar cried, being frenzy-struck,
'And the worse devil that is between my thighs.'

(Very classy.)


From The Wild Swans at Coole (1919)

The Wild Swans at Coole

But now they drift on the still water,
Mysterious, beautiful;
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake's edge or pool
Delight men's eyes when I awake some day
To find they have flown away?

An Irish Airman Foresees His Death
I know that I shall meet my fate,
Somewhere among the clouds above;
Those that I fight I do not hate,
Those that I guard I do not love...

Ego Dominus Tuus
Ille. His art is happy, but who knows his mind?


From Michael Robartes and the Dancer (1921)

The Second Coming
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world...


From The Tower (1928)

Sailing to Byzantium
That is no country for old men. The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees
– Those dying generations – at their song,
The salmon‐falls, the mackerel‐crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies...
(One of the best.)

The Tower

Did all old men and women, rich and poor,
Who trod upon these rocks or passed this door,
Whether in public or in secret rage
As I do now against old age?
But I have found an answer in those eyes
That are impatient to be gone;
Go therefore; but leave Hanrahan,
For I need all his mighty memories.
Does the imagination dwell the most
Upon a woman won or woman lost?
If on the lost, admit you turned aside
From a great labyrinth out of pride,
Cowardice, some silly over-subtle thought
Or anything called conscience once;
And that if memory recur, the sun's
Under eclipse and the day blotted out.

Two Songs From a Play

Everything that man esteems
Endures a moment or a day.
Love's pleasure drives his love away,
The painter's brush consumes his dreams...

A Man Young and Old

Never to have lived is best, ancient writers say;
Never to have drawn the breath of life, never to have
looked into the eye of day;
The second best's a gay goodnight and quickly turn away.


From The Winding Stair and Other Poems (1933)

In Memory of Eva Gore-Booth and Con Markiewicz

Dear shadows, now you know it all,
All the folly of a fight
With a common wrong or right.
The innocent and the beautiful
Have no enemy but time...


He knows death to the bone –
Man has created death.

A Dialogue of Self and Soul
My Soul. I summon to the winding ancient stair;
Set all your mind upon the steep ascent,
Upon the broken, crumbling battlement,
Upon the breathless starlit air,
Upon the star that marks the hidden pole;
Fix every wandering thought upon
That quarter where all thought is done:
Who can distinguish darkness from the soul?


Blood And The Moon

For wisdom is the property of the dead,
A something incompatible with life; and power,
Like everything that has the stain of blood,
A property of the living; but no stain
Can come upon the visage of the moon
When it has looked in glory from a cloud.


What's the meaning of all song?
'Let all things pass away.'


From Words for Music Perhaps


From A Woman Young and Old

Before the world was made

From mirror after mirror,
No vanity's displayed:
I'm looking for the face I had
Before the world was made.


From A Full Moon in March (1935)


From Last Poems (1936-1939)

The Wild Old Wicked Man

I have what no young man can have
Because he loves too much.
Words I have that can pierce the heart,
But what can he do but touch?'

Man and the Echo
In a cleft that's christened Alt
Under broken stone I halt
At the bottom of a pit
That broad noon has never lit,
And shout a secret to the stone.
All that I have said and done,
Now that I am old and ill,
Turns into a question till
I lie awake night after night
And never get the answers right...

 * Photo credit: Book cover via Goodreads.