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