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review 2018-08-19 17:03
Empty Philosophy: “O torcicologologista, Excelência” by Gonçalo M. Tavares
O torcicologologista, Excelência - Gonçalo M. Tavares

“– Gosto muito de bater na cabeça das pessoas com uma certa força.
– Gosta?
– Sim, agrada-me. Dá-me prazer. Uma pessoa vai a passar e eu chamo-a: ó, desculpe, Vossa Excelência?!
– E ela – a Excelência – vai?
– Sim. Quem não gosta de ser chamado à distância por Vossa Excelência? Apanho sempre, primeiro, as pessoas pela vaidade... é a melhor forma.
– E quando a pessoa-Excelência chega ao pé de Vossa Excelência, o que acontece?
– Ela aproxima-se e pergunta-me: o que pretende? E eu, com toda a educação e não querendo esconder nada, digo: gostava de bater com certa força na cabeça de Vossa Excelência. É isto que eu digo, apenas. Nem mais uma palavra.”


In “O torcicologologista, Excelência” by Gonçalo M. Tavares (In English: "His Excellency, The Circumlucologist")


Let’s try to translate this quote in which the two characters go by the same name: “Excellency” (as well as the Passerby):

"I like to hit people's heads with a certain force.”
“Do you like it?”
“Yes, I like it. It gives me pleasure. A person will go by and I will call him or her: ‘Oh, sorry, Your Excellency?!’”
“And is she or he, the Excellency, going?”
“Yes. Who does not like being called from a distance by Your Excellency? I always get people first through their vanity ... it's the best way.”
“And when the person-Excellency comes near Excellency, what happens?”
She or he approaches and asks me: “what do you want?”, and I, polite, and not wanting to hide anything, say: ‘I would like to strike your head with a certain force. This is just what I say. Not another word.”

 

 

If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

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review 2015-08-08 11:31
Stories Without People: "Histórias Falsas" by Gonçalo M. Tavares
Histórias Falsas - Gonçalo M. Tavares
"Histórias Falsas" = "False Stories"
 
Published 2010.
 
Gonçalo M. Tavares tells us a bunch of semi-false stories based on “real” stories, i.e., stories belonging to a kind pf parallel universe of Stories, wherein everything looks slightly askew:
 
The story of Juliet, the saint from Bavaria
The story of Lianor de Mileto
The story of Listo Mercatore
The story of Metão, the little one
The tyrants’ story
The story of Aurius Anaxos
The story of Elia de Mirceia
The story of Faustina, the fearful
The story of Arquitas
 
I cannot resist translating into English two very small excerpts from the same story (“The story of Listo Mercatore”):
 
1.
 
“Mercatore was climbing down small stairs when he run across the philosopher, shabbily dressed, sitting on the floor, against the wall, eating lentils.
Haughty, more than usual, with a full stomach, and full of cheekiness due to the wealth that he sported, said to Diogenes:
‘If you had learned to kiss ass to the king, you wouldn’t need to eat lentils.’
And then he laughed, mocking Diogenes poverty.
And yet, the philosopher, looked at him with even greater haughtiness and pride. He had had standing in front of him, Alexander the Great; who was this now? Just a simple rich man?
Diogenes answered to the letter: ‘and you,’ said the philosopher, ‘If you had learned to eat lentils, you wouldn’t need to kiss ass to the king.’”
 
The rest of this review can be found elsewhere.
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review 2015-07-17 21:25
Modlitwa w czasach technologii, czyli "Przypadki Lenza Buchmanna" Gonçala M. Tavaresa
Przypadki Lenza Buchmanna - Tavares Gonçalo M.

 

Medycyna i wojna to dwie różne formy używania prawej ręki. Zabijanie jest podniecające (bardziej niż kobiety), a uprawianie polityki metodą tyrana (trzeba wziąć miasto za gardło i potrząsnąć nim trochę – jak mówi Fortynbras w wierszu z podręcznika) jest jakąś tej przyjemności namiastką. Niemoralne? Oburzające? Na szczęście Lenz Buchmann, który tego typu aforyzmy wygłasza, to postać całkowicie fikcyjna (już po nazwisku poznamy, że jest Człowiekiem z Książki). Chociaż czasami przeglądając wiadomości z kraju i ze świata zastanawiam się, czy twarz Lenza nie pojawia się na jakiejś mównicy.

 

Gonçalo M. Tavares, namaszczony przez Joségo Saramago na kolejnego portugalskiego noblistę, w Przypadkach Lenza Buchmanna robi wszystko, by nie przypodobać się szerszej grupie czytelników. Styl jest skrótowy, aforystyczny niemal i trochę przygnębiający, główny bohater jest moralnym degeneratem, socjopatą i – co najgorsze – politykiem, a książka zaczyna się od gwałtu na służącej, do którego przymusza Lenza Buchmanna własny ojciec, mówiąc: Zrobisz to na moich oczach. Raczej nie jest to książka na plażę.

 

Wydawnictwo Literackie robi co może, żeby zachęcić czytelników do lektury. Z tylnej strony okładki możemy wyczytać, że to prawdziwie CZARNA KSIĄŻKA! Ale chyba trochę wbrew autorowi. Tu nie chodzi o skandal ani o szerzenie demoralizacji. Chyba nawet nie o szokowanie czytelnika. Tavares powoli, żmudnie, bez ukłonów w stronę czytelnika, może nawet nie licząc specjalnie na jego wyrozumiałość, przeprowadza wiwisekcję zbrodniarza, który jakimś cudem staje się osobą publiczną cieszącą się sporym szacunkiem. Jeżeli to jest „czarna książka”, to raczej w stylu Obcego Camusa czy jakiegokolwiek tekstu Thomasa Bernharda niż Łaskawych Littella.

 

Bardzo mi to odpowiada. Cenię sobie u Tavaresa jego bezkompromisowość, brak choćby jednego zbędnego zdania w tekście, zakorzenienie w tradycji literackiej (m.in. bildungsroman, powieść naturalistyczna, Kafka, Bernhard). Cenię sobie też to, że autor nie wyjaśnia mi niczego, nie daje do zrozumienia, że to jego bohater jest paskudny, a nie jego twórca – nie wszyscy pisarze traktują czytelnika jako pełnoprawnego partnera do rozmowy. I wreszcie odpowiada mi sposób, w jaki Tavares przygląda się władzy, która nie jest u niego ani formą wypełniania historycznej powinności, ani wyborem między większym i mniejszym złem, lecz po prostu cyniczną grą uprawianą zazwyczaj przez takich ludzi, którym nigdy świadomie nie podalibyśmy ręki. Podobne refleksje poświęcone władzy można zresztą znaleźć u innego pisarza portugalskiego, Antónia Lobo Antunesa (autora genialnego Podręcznika dla inkwizytorów, o którym pisałem tutaj).

 

Szkoda tylko, że Wojciech Charchalis (autor m.in. doskonałego nowego przekładu Don Kichota) nie pozostawił oryginalnego tytułu: Nauka modlitwy w czasach technologii. A może to sprawka wydawnictwa? Nie wiem. Pewnie to nadinterpretacja, ale nie mogę pozbyć się natrętnego wrażenia, że ma to jakiś głębszy sens. Czy słowo „modlitwa” użyte w tytule tak niemoralnego tekstu może obrazić czyjeś uczucia religijne? Chyba nie powinno, bo nasi domorośli obrońcy moralności i tak po tę książkę nie sięgną. Ale z drugiej strony, w zeszłym roku Golgoty Picnic też nikt nigdzie nie widział.

 

 

www.facebook.com/literaturasaute

 

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review 2014-10-24 23:40
"The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher" by Hilary Mantel
The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher and Other Stories - Hilary Mantel

This is my first Mantel. I’ve been postponing reading the first two volumes of the Cromwell trilogy, waiting for the third volume to come out predictably in 2016. One does not tackle a twice-awarded-writer-with-the-Man-Booker-Prize without having everything in one big bundle to make a proper assessment...Nevertheless here goes my first take on Hilary Mantel, for what it’s worth.

 

One of my favourite things in life is reading that truly astounding book at the right juncture in time, ie, a book that mysteriously echoes and enriches my current thoughts. I think this was one of those (imperfect/perfect) books. There is a peculiar comfort in reading a book whose structures and operations mimic what, I think, literature should be all about. One of the things I like the most about literature is to read it and later on write about it. Literature for me is all about a set of interlocking conventions (a system), and how we can read this so-called system into something meaningful.

 

This short-story collection is a good example of this. First of all it’s a mixed bag, ie, we have The Magnificent, The So-and-So, and The-Not-So-Good (there are not really bad short stories here). What is immediately noticeable is Mantel’s use of language (the system). What better way to evaluate a write’s skills than in the shorter form? I’ve always stated that there’s no better way to “see” the inner skills of a writer. In the shorter forms the writer cannot hide behind the usual literary contraptions: plot, complex character development, etc.

 

In this aspect Mantel succeeds entirely, ie, her use of language drew me in, revealing the horror that just lies beneath the surface of our everyday life, to reveal the inner structure of reality, much like Gonçalo M. Tavares (vide review) is able to do:

 

 “I knew not to mention her name and the pressure of not mentioning her made her, in my imagination, beaten thin and flat, attenuated, starved away, a shadow of herself, so I was no longer sure whether she existed when I was not with her.” (From “Comma”)

 

“And we saw – nothing; we saw something not yet become; we saw something, not a face but perhaps, I thought, when I thought about it later, perhaps a negotiating position for a face, perhaps a loosely imagined notion of a face, like God’s when he was trying to form us; we saw a blank, we saw a sphere, it was without feature, it was without meaning, and its flesh seemed to run from the bone.” (From “Comma”)

 

"What I had taken to be stucco was in fact some patent substance newly glued to the front wall: it was grayish-white and crinkled, like a split-open brain, or nougat chewed by a giant." (From “How Shall I Know You, my favourite short story in this collection).

 

“I did my act on autopilot, except that when it came to my influences I went a bit wild and invited a Portuguese writer who I said knocked Pessoa into a socket hat. The golden young man kept invading my mind, and I thought I’d quite like to go bed with someone of that ilk, by way of change. Wasn’t everybody due a change?” (“How Shall I Know You”)

 

As I said, not all of the stories are successful. Sometimes we get the feeling that Mantel just ran out of steam by the end of some them, but the ones that work, oh my…Almost all of the short stories here are a wonderful example of the show-don’t-tell type; they show everything, almost, and tell nothing. What more can I ask for in a literary work? In this aspect Mantel belongs to the Gonçalo M. Tavares, António Lobo Antunes and Philip K. Dick lineage.

 

Without having read her other body-of-work, ie, having read only this collection, Hilary Mantel may be one of the best writers of her time, and there's no better evidence of her skills than this short-story collection. I’ll refrain from further praise. I’ll wait for the Cromwell trilogy to fully state my case.

 

Is it possible to name a writer as the best prose stylist of our time? Should the discussion be exclusively Anglo-centric? I think not. I can give two wonderful examples of writers writing in Portuguese, but with numerous translations in English, that in my mind could be real contenders for this elusive “prize”: Gonçalo M. Tavares (he pushes the boundaries of what fiction is or should be in a way I haven’t seen in a writer writing in English in recent years – vide review above), and António Lobo Antunes (I always thought that his writing is very god-like, ie, Lobo Antunes can write as if God himself were choosing the words for him; it all fits perfectly in his sentences).

 

I invite you to name a few writers having this “illuminating”, reality-behind-the-surface quality (in English or in any other language). Any thoughts on this? I’m curious to know.

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review 2013-07-20 00:00
Aprender a Rezar na Era da Técnica (O Reino, #4)
Aprender a Rezar na Era da Técnica - Gonçalo M. Tavares
description

Can one build his life on the refusal to really live with others?

This is a story of a "relentless rise" and even an abrupt descent of a man that is born to be a servant of violence.

Lenz Buchmann is an utterly despicable character but what a phenomenal and satisfying portrait of a despicable character it is. Maybe that's why the book works on several levels. The thin line between melodrama and pastiche verges on the absolutely brilliant.

The books looks to me like an instruction manual because of its structure (the finely neat division in headlines, chapters and sections and language (technical and analytical, and yet also so distant).

While reading this book Kafka and Gombrowicz comes to mind. I'll try "to verbalize" the reasons:

1 - Tavares vs Kafka: Absurdist tendencies and a very dark look towards life;

2 - Tavares vs Kafka: Aphorisms abound. One could say that the book is almost entirely written in an aphoristic style. The similarities between Kafka and Tavares kept coming to mind ("Nachgelessene Schriften und Fragmente" by Kafka is a fine example of the Art of the Aphorism). In post-modern literature I don't recall another example to keep Tavares company;

3 - Tavares vs Gombrowicz: Battle against the strictures of culture.

Is it shown here the age of the "Death of God"? And with what can we replace Him? Technology...?

Thinking material permeates the book...
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