sábado, 21 de diciembre de 2013


Aquí reseña de Paraísos/Paradises por Paula Mc Grath para Gorse

If in recent times the ‘literary’ novel has polarised into two distinct types — the expansive, all-encompassing Jonathan Franzen kind, and the other, more modest variety, slim volumes of spare, detatched prose, like Ben Lerner‘s Leaving The Atocha Station — Paradises belongs firmly to the latter. It follows an episodic structure, and this, combined with the uncomplicated sentence structure of its first person, present tense prose, makes it deceptive in its apparent simplicity.
Paradises opens a few years after Iosi Havilio‘s earlier novel Open Door ends, and follows its unnamed, recently widowed protagonist as she moves with her four year old son, Simón, from rural Open Door to Buenos Aires. Chapter by chapter, she finds accommodation, employment, meets an array of misfits, parties, sometimes takes care of, sometimes neglects Simon, considers participating in a robbery, and other somewhat random situations.
In short, Paradises does not tick the usual boxes in terms of its structure. The sub-plots and motifs — snakes, paradise, Tosca and the injections, the coincidence of the many appearances of Eduardo Holmberg ‘the man with the library that had the snake book, the man on the statue, the same man who wrote the novel about Martians…’ — don’t add up to much. Rather than rising tension towards a single plot crisis we get a low-grade, sustained anxiety, with the whole novel acting as a form of crisis.
This review has no need for a ‘spoiler alert.’ Almost from the start, we understand that there will not be a big reveal. Ah, literary fiction, we say, a study in character rather than plot. But here too, at least initially, we are stymied, because Havilio does not appear to have any interest in engaging us with his character. We wonder if her passivity can be explained by the shock of her recent bereavement. She is ‘…unable to imagine a way to make money to pay the bills.’ However, quickly we see that this is not a temporary state, rather it is her character: ‘I carry on, to everyone else’s rhythm; this is seemingly what I have to do.” And a protagonist who lacks agency, drifting from one situation to another, can become irritating.
But her voice is nevertheless compelling and often humourous, and it draws us in until her passivity begins to look like a philosophy:
… you can get used to anything. He’s quite right about that, although I don’t know whether it’s more a case of everyone getting used to whatever comes their way, which isn’t quite the same thing.
Hers is a world of squatting and squalour, a marginal existence, where the threat of violence is everpresent, and where morphine and other drugs offer readily available escapes. As she weaves a path through the potential dangers of the city, we begin to see that it is her ability to go with the flow which saves her from collapsing under the horror of her situation. Passive acceptance is her coping mechanism, and perhaps the best way surviving. Thus, she takes up offers of work in the reptile house at the zoo, of accommodation in a half-finished tower block, and of an eleven year old childminder as they present themselves, and they work out.
Or so we are lulled into at least half-beliving. Havilio’s skill lies in seducing the reader into acceptance of a character for whom this reality, filled with uncertainty and danger and snakes, is tolerable. One of the most affecting aspect of the novel is the reality check we get when, occasionally, we remember to hold Havilio’s world up agains ‘normal’, such as when his protagonist leaves Simón with the bull:
He’s a sitting bull. The naked torso, the square head, bushy eyebrows and a mass of tangled hair that couldn’t be blacker. He really is frightening.
Could Simón stay for a while, I have to go out.
And she does, leaving her four-year-old child with this terrifying stranger she knows to be capable of violent behaviour, to go to a party.
It is primarily through language that Havilio achieves the detatched passivity of his character. His style is plain, unadorned, and perfectly suited to his purposes:
I think about everything we said, everything we didn’t, I think about the past, everything that is no longer and never will be again, I think about how each of us had to devise our truth in relation to the other, a comparison of before and after. And that’s the reason for all the affectations, the smiles, the embarrassment, the surprise, the And you? This is mad, and I promise. All those words.
Indeed, often she chooses not to use words at all. When it occurs to her that she might relate all that has happened to her since she last saw Eloísa, she decides against: ‘But I say nothing… I’m about to lie, tell her anything, invent an address, but I come out with a vague remark.’ This is a risky decision for a writer to make about his first person, central protagonist, but it is effective. In the spaces in the narrative, in the silences where another writer might have put dialogue, Havilio makes room for the reader, trusting him or her to interpret his motivations and themes.
Sometimes a feeling of detachment can come about by virtue of a book being in translation, but unless one is able to read the novel in its original Spanish, it is impossible to determine to what extent this is the case. The translator, Beth Fowler, does add a dimension to the novel with some of her decisions, however, such as the words she chooses to leave untranslated: caudillo, and sequidilla (a Spanish dance in triple time; Havilio uses it to describe the rhythm of a series of farts!). For this English-only reader, it does not matter whether the impact of the prose is intrinsic, or enhanced by translation.
Paradises ends at a somewhat random point, leaving Havilio free to pick up again later should he wish to do so, as he did with Open Door. There is little by way of denouement, and we are left to ponder a drawing of a snake as a last chapter. In terms of traditional novel structure, Paradises is unsatisfactory, but Havilio’s novel is not traditional and there is no overarching plot, with its concommitant narrative arc. There are themes running through it, perhaps about the meaninglessness and randomness of life, or about judgment and acceptance, or about the duality of existance, good and evil, Paradise and snakes. Havilio, in an interview, says he sees the world as, ‘…a never ending spiral which I observe upwards, from the bottom. Such an experience serves as an entrance and exit to any story.’
The story is entered and exited on Havilio’s terms. This is a novel which follows its own rules, and it works — on its own terms.

sábado, 14 de diciembre de 2013


Lectura de Paradises desde Scoop Review of Books  

by Vaughan Rapatahana 

Havilio’s first novel, Open Door, was published in 2006. The novel tells the story of a young woman who, after losing her job in Buenos Aires, finds herself sliding into a very different lifestyle in the titular domicile in the countryside.
Paradises is a sort-of follow up, and entails a return to the city; but it can also be taken as a stand alone opus (although a sequel seems likely if we take note of the final words: I find it hard to believe a new life is about to begin.)
I really enjoyed – if that is quite the correct word – this long, surreal novel and recommend it to anyone seeking something phantasmagoric and different. Translated from the original Spanish by Beth Fowler, it is all of or any selection you might like care to make from the following fiction-derived adjectives: Borgean/Pynchonesque/Kafkaesque/Carpentieran.
Indeed Havilio’s book is all somewhat hallucinogenic in not only mood, but also action, for the unnamed female protagonist (hereafter Nameless for review purposes), given she is acted on, more than being any causative factor herself, does imbibe on drugs such as marijuana and the morphine dregs left after she pumps huge amounts of it into the somewhat grotesque Tosca, the mass presence in the bizarre squat named el Buti. She also imbibes considerable quantities of alcohol throughout. There is a definite drink-sated and drug-saturated flavour to this book.
Tosca’s macrocephalic son Benito is also deformed, as indeed are many of the rather entropic characters here, such as the lugubrious Canetti (who is severely damaged goods and described at one stage as having: eyes, sad, broken eyes like an orphaned cat’s) and a further raft of cameo bits and pieces part players who cursorily crop up, depicted as, for example:
A man with no legs enters the bar, traveling on a kind of skateboard… He’s wearing glasses with green lenses
A man missing a leg is crossing the street dressed in combat gear.
Boschean is another novel adjective for this novel, for there are in addition to the abovementioned players, the surly Yessica, Iris the Romanian, Esteban the veteran veterinarian and more especially the transmuting-throughout Eloisa, who is a source of abundant, divisive and erratic energy. Then there are the repetitive echoes of historical characters, who plausibly never existed initially anyway. One Eduardo Ladislao Holmberg crops up a fair bit at odd times, as explained, if that is an appropriate word for Paradises, via the comment: Another coincidence, too much. Then there is the early depiction of the roped-together ensemble trying to avoid the deluge downtown, all too reminiscent of the blind leading the blind.
Significantly here, the nameless heroine seems to rather empathize with this breaking and broken cast, such is her own odd pinball ricochet nature from one incongruous situation to the next and to all the oddballs who inhabit them. This book , as sure as any trip into hell, is no portrayal of tight Euro-centric middle class banality; more a scurry through the seedy, the weedy, the needy, the greedy striates of the lower socio-economic castes.
Paralleling the characters is a run down, decrepit and transient Buenos Aries – such as the squat and the Hotel Fenix, if you can even call it that – where Nameless finds herself and her rather neglected young son, Simon: she is at once concerned and rather negligent towards him and spends an inordinate amount of time leaving him with other misfits such as Iris and the very young child babysitter, Herbert This decrepit ambience is conveyed by a description of Benito’s macrocephalic hideaway within the entrails of Toscas’ sprawling apartment, itself within the run down tenement building, which was supposed to have been demolished decades previously: [It was] some strange effect of angles and refractions…as if the scene were submerged in muddy water – words which are a further murky reflection of this entire tome.
To further stress this crumbling, stumbling, tumbling environment, the reader will note that the farmland of the initial novel, Open Door, where Nameless and her now deceased husband Jamie once lived, is here now being taken over by an anonymous succubus conglomerate – thus causing her eviction without a murmur early on – and is further exposed by sparse and sporadic news media reports scattered through the action/inaction concerning ecological disasters, such as a mighty oil spill. Indeed the disintegrating farmhouse Nameless shared with her road accident victim husband floods away and falls apart, erodes her into a spasm of action.
Dreams are also a particularly strong element throughout, which correlates to this suffocating surreal ambience. Nameless rarely sleeps either. By the end of the book she finds herself in an even more mixed up daydream incubus than ever:
I return to the moments I still remember of Axel’s birthday party…I confuse, invent, transform many of the faces. I superimpose features and costumes onto one single body, big-headed and colourful. Eloisa almost always appears out of focus, half monstrous.
To add to the oppressiveness of the tale, snakes and lizards and many creatures in between, also crawl through the text. Iris tells Nameless episodes about snakes in her Romanian homeland more than once. Nameless works in the reptile area of the very odd zoo; she untroves an ancient huge book on snakes tied to Holmberg, which she reads and reflects on frequently in her sporadic free time; while she also frequently has: Snake nightmares [which] return. Then on the final page there is a full-page black and white graphic – of a snake, which is actually the final chapter in its wordless entirety. Why this ophidian fixation? For me, it is a firm nod to an ever-present lurking and sexually-nuanced evil, the Fall without redemption, that everyone in this novel is close to attaining or has already attained: In order to relax, I start tracing what’s left of the snake. It’s head is never-ending.
More pronounced throughout is the almost total passivity of the (anti) heroine – and just about everyone else! She scarcely ever prompts anything but goes along with any peculiar flow, while some people such as the ardent Eloisa are far more dynamic than her and act upon her, rather like a puppeteer. Things especially also act on her – thus there is an avid anthropomorphism throughout the book. Indeed some of the anthropomorphic descriptions also really show off Havilio’s sheer writing craft, as in:
At the bottom of the sky, or what appears to be the bottom of the sky, two flat, thin clouds are racing like greyhounds…
Lying on my back, the ceiling runs away from me
The heat pushes out to the street during the night.
In fact, consistently, nature is rather oppressive:
Hotter and hotter: enveloping, sticky like a distant relative, invisible and giant…
Rain or refreshment, you get the feeling that something’s going to happen. It’s been like this all day, heavy and indefinite.
It’s a cloudy day, asphyxiating and gelatinous. A day that infects everyone equally with its dull oppression
Nameless, then, just seems used to weirdness and unfairness and her contingent life circumstances imposing themselves on her as opposed to any other way around. Passivity is the birth child and mother of contingency, after all:
…all the things that just a few weeks ago seemed absurd now feel completely normal to me.
Indeed inherent contradictions and crazy semantics abound, further driving the dominant discordant discourse into incoherence, such as when she notes:
All this lucidity is driving me crazy
I hear deformed words: catalep, tolomintes, monloctia…
Axel, the sort-of beau of Eloisa, is another very passive protagonist caught in the treacle that is the languid and limpid flow of this novel: he comes across as more an extension of his many computers than as any vibrant flesh and blood whole.
So, contingency is king and devolves into this endemic passiveness, impotence, oppressiveness: a small dog comes out of nowhere and barks at me, irritated. There is an unexplained delay on the train journey; the ‘innocent’ young man has just been killed on the streets among a crowd of onlookers; the circuitous trawl to the bank to retrieve funds and the Joseph K ‘explanations’ by the clerk there. If, if, if, is also a frequent visitor to the dialogues within.
The ‘heroine’ (heroin?) is, then, rather powerless and she too is rather impotent and is reduced to frequent masturbation, although unfulfilled lesbian impulses often snake through rudely, especially with regard to Eloisa:
I think that sooner or later we are going to kiss again and see each other naked. There are times when it’s all I wish for and then I don’t even want to think about it.
I wonder what it would be like if she kissed me now or if later she felt like stroking my breast and started sucking it. I’d certainly let her do it.
the need arises in me to kiss her [Iris]
Mind you she also at one stage dreamily, in another incubus perhaps, fantasizes about Mercedes the gangster hell- banging her. He – Herbert’s abusive gangster father is a true trouser snake indeed!
Nameless rather drifts. Her arbitrary acceptance of whatever future job she is finally offered at the zany zoo stresses her ambivalence about almost everything throughout: What’s your plan? I shrug. She lets everything pan out without very much initiative or volition or drive from within. In such a febrile and economically destitute environment, one wonders does she ‘really’ have any choice anyway? Any human agency is severely lacking in Paradises.
Yet she does steal an iguana for reasons she can’t even fathom: I justify myself as best I can. Nothing is consistent, nothing is predictable, except the unpredictability prevailing this volume.
At the conclusion, we also never learn why she joins Eloisa’s hare-brained yet ultimately smashingly successful heist to steal the jewels from the sexually apathetic Axels’ distanced and distant relatives, either…or why she suddenly chooses to cut off all her hair, especially when she muses existentially that if she shave it all off (which she then desists in doing): I would stop being me to a certain extent, would become a caricature of myself…being more me than I already am. This is existentialist muddle.
The meaning of life would seem to be that there isn’t actually any such, even if in some, never ever defined sense: everything is linked. Apathy is regnant and initiative is an anaemic condition at best. A philosophy of ambivalent stasis:
A sign of destiny, an oversight of chance, it could be either.
I think of how each of us had to devise our truth in relation to the other…
Illnesses, accidents, pills, gunshots, the sea. I make a mental list of all the ways of dying that occur to me at that moment. I wonder which will be destined for me.
You can tell that eternity is gradually wearing her [Eloisa] down.
It’s just a question of luck
Paradises is a metaphysic of exigency, overtaking any possibility of a planned, cogent, rational path to any sustainable ontological creed. It is as if, actually, that Havilio has been skinny-dipping in the seas of Speculative Realism and in particular being crushed by the nihilistic crests of Ray Brassier and Quentin Meillassoux!
Then there is fairly obvious religious symbolism: churches grace the pages from go to woe, such as the Evangelical temple and the Adventist chapel in Nameless’ new city neighbourhoods (not to mention the demented depiction of the Christmas party and its: strange Jesus wrapped down to its feet in a tunic.) Then there are copious references to the perhaps miraculously benevolent Virgin of Syracuse, the Virgin of Tears.
Havilio’s rather apathetic attitude towards, and indeed these very religious vessels themselves, seem to occlude things even more (if that is possible!):
I can’t see properly: the stained glass of the chapel projects a diffused light that has a clouding effect.
Everything is inevitably epistemologically cloudy. Perceptions go awry and this reader reflects through the haze of Paradises, who or what – if any – is the agent behind them? It’s all rather the anti-phenomenology of the oppressed. Their shared resigned visions leak onto the page as opposed to any sheer impellation to grab hold of what they all experience diurnally and construct away from it. What comes first? The conceptual miasma or the existential anomie? It is rather like Camus’ Mersault all over again!
There are no paradises prevailing in this book, except for the contradictory Paradise trees and their near-lethal effects on Simon…scarcely a paradise at all. Beads from this tree nearly kill her young son, yet bark from it also cures him and – interestingly here – it is only Nameless and Sonia (Herbert’s mother) who condone any credibility to the folk-medicine involved: The antidote alongside the poison, that sounds reasonable.
Reputable and ‘reliable’ medical procedures just do not work, any more than similar ‘accepted’ religious tenets, transport systems, commercial infrastructures, roofs, people per se. There may well be certain codes, but Nameless and her cohorts certainly do not have any access to their cogency.
Despite, or more particularly, because of this accent on the dystopian, I thoroughly recommend this unusual novel. It is very readable and strangely enjoyable though wickedly weird with its insidious and invidious images such as:
…he [Simon] shows me a small cemetery of beheaded dolls…
Half a dead dog covered in a cloud of flies
It compels the reader to progress laterally, yet literally, through its pages, all the time feeling rather like one has been invited to the very strange costume party Nameless goes to, equally unprepared, at Axel’s strange home.
Alex Clark sums this up so well in his percipient Introduction, when he notes: Havilio’s shifting, undefinable exploration of alienation and its surprising consequences…[with its] Correspondingly blank, affectless prose.
I cannot agree more. Havilio’s non-reflective writing style – rather like the people it brings into being – is reportorial, distanced, adverbially sparse, as resigned as it is clever: Two teenagers were kissing like amoeba.
It’s a whole other world in this, the underbelly of his netherworld of impassively disenfranchised silhouettes of humanity.

viernes, 22 de noviembre de 2013

Paraísos TV

Aquí el bloque Paraísos en Otra Trama el programa de Osvaldo Quiroga en la TV Pública. De yapa, Los Quilapayún.

martes, 19 de noviembre de 2013


Lectura junto a Pedro Mairal por el aniversario de Escape a Plutón. Miércoles 20/11, 19 hs. Galeria Imada: Soler 3964.

martes, 12 de noviembre de 2013

One damned thing after another

Paradises reviewed for We Love This Book

by Adam Ley-Lange

“History is just one damned thing after another,” Arnold J. Toynbee once said. This would also be an accurate description of Iosi Havilio's Paradises, the sequel to his first novel Open Door.

Following the freak death of her partner Jaime, the unnamed narrator loses her house in the Argentinian countryside and, with her son Simón, moves to a dilapidated guest house in Buenos Aires. To pay rent, she gets a job at the reptile house of the local zoo. She finds a new flat in return for giving injections to an huge invalided woman called Tosca. She goes to parties with her old friend Eloisa.

There is little reflection by any of the characters on their respective positions. The prose is bland and reporter-like. Again, this all adds to the feeling that this is a chronicle of events within a life, and the life is not particularly consciously lived. Perhaps this is why Havilio has been compared to Albert Camus; his main character parallels the existential passivity of Mersault in The Outsider.

Throughout the documentation of daily life, there is one coincidence that reappears – the narrator often comes across the name of Eduardo Ladislao Holmberg, the Argentinian natural historian and novelist. The coincidences are never explained, nor does the author go out of his way to hint at their significance.

Whilst history might be one damned thing after another, the job of historians is to interpret it. This would be a good mindset to bring to Paradises. It's something of a series of dots, which different readers will connect in different ways.

domingo, 27 de octubre de 2013

The roof

Chapter Two
I had to imagine Jaime’s burial. It rained all night and the taxi wasn’t able to pick us up. Héctor phoned to let me know: The man says the road is impossible. Anyway, he added after a silence, a bit of interference or a drag on a cigarette: Why such a long send-off? Héctor sounded annoyed, angry, a far cry from the friendly, affectionate tone of the previous day. It must have been lack of sleep and the certainty that death, after the initial novelty, brought nothing but complications and desolation.
I imagined a small, hurried burial, the duty priest going through the motions of a quick prayer, not wanting to get wet. I imagined a sober tombstone, no epitaph. I imagined Jaime, his mouth stuck in that sarcastic smile for all eternity. I thought about all those things his eyes suggested when we were face to face, things that came out suddenly, all at once, not in words but in grunts or kicks, always clumsy. I also imagined that if he woke up, which they say happens once in a million burials, because he’d been taken for dead when he was just unconscious, Jaime wouldn’t go crazy, beating the coffin lid for someone to open it. Instead, he would calmly consume the air he had left, guessing at the grain of the wood in the darkness.
Earlier, in the middle of the night, I had nightmares, shivers and something that felt like fever but wasn’t. My stomach spasmed too, driving me blindly to the bathroom. I vomited three times in a row, everything I had eaten and more. Red, tomato-tinged vomit. As it was happening, I had the impossible feeling that I was bringing up small triangles, like mini portions of pizza that my intestines had taken the trouble to reshape before sending back to the surface.
Around midday, after spending all morning watching television – two news broadcasts, El Zorro, a cookery competition – I got out of bed when hunger started to make Simón grumpy. Aching bones, in my face and limbs, as if I had been stretched on the rack in my sleep. Leaving the room brought confirmation that it had been raining: pools of water in the corners and a small lake in the middle of the house. I put a pan of stew on to heat, left over in the fridge from two nights ago, Jaime’s last supper, and I picked up a tea towel to mop the floor.
At the end of the winter, Jaime had experienced a surge of uncharacteristic enthusiasm, finally ready to devote himself to a bit of home maintenance. After a great struggle, he had managed to retire, and now that he had he felt diminished. Fed up of doing odd jobs in faraway houses, repairing roofs, stopping drips, unblocking drains, he never took the step of fixing the leaks in our own home, although they multiplied after every rainfall, especially above the fireplace. He limited himself to putting out tubs, buckets or rags in the corners to catch the water. Until one cold morning he took out the big stepladder, the one for important jobs, and started cleaning out the gutters. He took out the earth, the dry leaves, all the accumulated mulch, and the task clearly spurred him on because that same night he announced: I’m going to raise the roof.
First he spent some time studying how to do it, whether to replace the broken tiles, remove the rotten struts or change a central, worm-ridden joist. He decided to go for a mixed approach: one part of the house, the kitchen, the bedrooms and the bathroom, would keep its original roof, and he would put corrugated iron over the other part. That’s what he said: I’ll rip off all this shit and put down corrugated iron. The job was half done: he had replaced the broken tiles with new ones and raised the roof, which he had covered with plastic sheeting, but the corrugated iron never arrived. On the night of the accident he was on his way to or back from buying it, I’ll never know which.
Clutching the tea towel, I stood distractedly for a while, my eyes fixed on that provisional, half-naked roof. When I had finished with the cloth, I leant into the bedroom to tell Simón the food was ready. I sat down and once again fixated on all the ornaments, lamps and oldfashioned junk that perhaps the time had come to start recycling. I realised that, somehow, this house belonged to me now, or at least it had ended up in my charge.
I pondered all this as Simón ate, playing at trying to squeeze his tiny elbows through the tines of the fork. I raised my eyes and fixed them on that plate hanging on the wall, with a blue border depicting a hunting scene. A plate Jaime had rescued not long ago, a reminder of his mother or grandmother that he had hung next to the window, the only decorative gesture I’d ever known him to make. In the middle, it read in cursive, sprawling writing:
Make a bigger door, Pa,
For I no longer fit,
You built it for the children;
I’ve grown, to my regret.
I realised that Simón was staring at me as intently as I was at the plate. The spoon, suspended dripping in the air, demanded my attention. When our eyes met, he smiled. An ambiguous smile, ironic yet kind, testing me, an adult smile, lips nearly sealed, identical to Jaime’s smirk in the coffin. I was about to say something to him, in fact I mentally rehearsed several phrases, but I failed in the attempt and kept quiet.
We had lived in this house for the last four years, moving less and less, going out only when necessary. No sudden shocks, obligations or big adventures. In fact, we had formed something that wasn’t far off a family. A family that was harmonious in its own way. We shared breakfasts, lunches and dinners. A frictionless family, each of us in our own little world. Now things had to change and my role was still to be determined.
We went out to the veranda. Simón started playing with some broken tiles, while I moved a few metres away from the house, my espadrilles sinking into the mud. I thought about the roof again. Corrugated iron, I thought, and said out loud: Corrugated iron. I couldn’t think of anyone who might take care of it. I remembered an old tarpaulin folded up under the mill. I set myself a challenge.
Manoeuvring the roll of canvas wasn’t easy. I dragged it as if it were a corpse, pulling it by the feet. Unbelievably, it was just about the right size. I climbed the ladder and lifted it, secured by a rope. I stretched out the plastic Jaime had put down and spread the canvas on top, nice and tight, pinning it in place at the edges with branches and stones, along the line of the crossbeams. I was exhausted and sweating heavily, a smell of burnt caramel rising from my armpits. It wasn’t the ideal solution but it would buy us some time.
The first week passed as if Jaime was still there. Prowling. Leaving at dawn and returning when we were already in bed. His presence was evident in every corner. In the dirty boots at the foot of the bed, in his clothes hanging in the wardrobe, in the shovel and the rake, covered in soil and dried grass. In the smells, too, in the room, the bed, the shed, the constant sweat, the dampness of the walls and that spicy tang impregnated in the sheets, which wasn’t exactly Jaime but which I always associated with him.
Naturally, Simón came to sleep with me, usurping the side made free by Jaime. The cot, which was actually getting too small for him, started to fill up with clothes, boxes and papers. Simón didn’t seem particularly bothered by his father’s absence. He didn’t look sad or quiet. Quite the opposite in fact; shedding his usual calm demeanour, he developed a series of skills, as if he were undergoing a sudden growth spurt: the tricycle he had previously used as a handcart or a seat from which to contemplate the horizon was now used for getting around. He was so excited by this novelty that he didn’t stop cycling back and forth from one end of the veranda to the other, pedalling as if possessed. Only once did he ask for Jaime, and after pausing for a long time to find a gentle but effective formula, I ended up saying: He had an accident, I don’t think he’ll be coming back. That’s how I put it: I don’t think. Simón listened to me with his brows furrowed, he stayed silent, sighed deeply as if commenting on the situation like an old village gossip, then returned to his pedalling. And that was it.
I, on the other hand, began to feel his absence more keenly as the days passed. I needed his hands to yank the water pump, to battle the rats and also, although he had barely done so recently, to touch me. It had been a long year since we had last made love, not even caresses; physical contact had been reduced to accidental brushes in bed, in the bathroom, going through a door. Now that he wasn’t here, it gripped me like a new kind of fever. A heat I could only calm with a lot of masturbation, every night, two or three times. Almost always thinking about the last Jaime, the one in the coffin; other times it was abstractions that turned me on in the darkness. Nervous rubbing, full of fury. Then it passed and I forgot about sex again, as before.
Without the pickup, we were more isolated than ever. Twice in one month we walked into Open Door, loaded up a taxi at the supermarket and came home. We hardly had any neighbours left. The few remaining shacks had disappeared the previous summer. Eloísa’s house too, the store-shed and the shop. We had witnessed machines razing the lot. I’d stopped seeing Eloísa before the demolitions. She’d moved to the capital and very occasionally came back to visit her parents. Only once did she approach the gate, and we had a short, awkward conversation, which Simón took it upon himself to interrupt with a tantrum. She hated Jaime, the baby; she liked me but not my life.
It was said that the Dutch people who had bought the club with the polo fields and stables were offering a lot of money for the surrounding land. The idea was to put together an immense country club with a golf course in the middle, right where we were. Everything together in one single complex, almost as big as the adjoining psychiatric hospital, but not quite. Jaime had laughed when he remarked on it: They’re going to end up throwing the loonies out in the dirt. But he never said anything about selling the farm, didn’t even mention it, he seemed determined to resist.
Six weeks after the burial, just when I was starting to wonder how long I could take care of the house alone, lacking the will to cut the grass, with the scrub growing and advancing, but above all unable to imagine a way to make money to pay the bills, a very tall man appeared, claiming to be a representative of the firm. He dragged us from sleep one heavy morning, the sky covered in storm clouds. Beeping his horn. First it woke Simón, who began to whimper and kick me. I opened the shutters slightly and peered through the slits, taking care not to be seen. On the far side of the gate, perpendicular to the track, a red car was parked. I spent a while trying to guess who it could be, I didn’t recognise the car or the man standing next to it, and all the hypotheses that occurred to me were discouraging. I left it for a while in the hope that he would get tired and go away. But the guy seemed determined, or else he knew we were there, because he persisted, blasting the horn ceaselessly. I got dressed in the first thing I found, a raincoat of Jaime’s, and went outside with Simón protesting in my arms. Inevitably, I kept guessing all the way to the gate. The man, sunglasses, lots of grey hair, formal but clearly a country type, reached into the car to take out a briefcase when he saw me approach. We made our greetings across the wire fence, not touching, with a nod of the head. Sorry to call so early, but I had to catch you at home, that was how he began. Then he shot out: Do you know who owns this land? Satisfied by my silence, the man started talking again: That was what we assumed, you have no idea about anything, do you? So much the better, why would you want to complicate things with other people’s stories, he said and handed me his card: Agent. While the man flicked through a sheaf of papers in the briefcase he had opened on the bonnet, I wondered what those stories might be and who these other people were. This is what it’s all about, he said, proffering a printed sheet that I took a few seconds to accept from him, Simón’s weight making it impossible for me to move my arm.
I tilt my neck to read the heading: Eviction Agreement. I raise my eyes in search of answers and the man rotates his finger for me to keep reading. I scan the text from top to bottom, right to left, and random words leap out at me: OPEN DOOR, The Occupier, The Owner, Camino de la Legua, cancellation, debt, reinstate, farm, single instalment. Several spelling or typing errors also catch my eye: peanal for penal, retension for retention, divergense for divergence. The man is clearly impatient because he takes the sheet from my hands and puts on a pair of magnetic self-assembling glasses: It says here thirty days, but we can talk about that, it could be forty-five, even sixty, and in respect of the rent owed, taxes, rates, etcetera, you’ll see that we’re offering you total debt relief. Look, he said, I suggest you get this sorted quickly, I’m saying that from my heart. It’s best for you; sign on time and don’t complicate things. If you make a decision, then we’ll get the parties together and talk money. I can assure you they’ll offer you a tidy sum. I thought about saying: There must be some mix-up, or even, Are you sure it’s this land, this house? I thought that someone else in my place would have told him where to go, would have screwed up the paper and thrown it in his face. Before taking his leave, he suddenly became very familiar with me, saying in a low voice, as if someone could hear us in the middle of the countryside: A word of friendly advice, think of something that makes you happy – here’s the means to do it. The guy got into the car, reversed and drove off, raising a cloud of dust.
That night, after giving the matter a lot of thought, I called Jaime’s brother. I told him about the agent, the eviction agreement, I mentioned the money. He wasn’t surprised. He sighed heavily. I warned him about this, he said, and launched into a monologue that sounded overacted to me, full of clichés and formulas that gave me the feeling that it was directed not just at me but also at whoever was standing near him: That’s life, sometimes nothing, then everything happens at once. It’s the same old rotten story, I wouldn’t get involved if I were you, and another thing, sooner or later they’ll make you crack. A pause and he continues: Things aren’t going that well for us either, it’s an uphill struggle. What do you want me to tell you? that’s what he says and I stay silent, with a But on my lips and the telephone in my hand. It was the last I heard of Héctor.

jueves, 24 de octubre de 2013

Literatura es música

Aquí las crónicas y algunos ejercicios a partir de la experiencia del Taller de Escritura Musical, Casa de las Américas, La Habana, Cuba, sept 2013.   Via La Ventana.

por Iosi Havilio

Suelo pensar que en mi formación como escritor pesa más la música que las letras. De hecho, estoy convencido de que el elemento esencial de la literatura es la voz del narrador. Todo lo demás, son meras palabras. Ahí está en buena medida el origen del Taller de Escritura Musical que llevamos a Casa Tomada.

Fueron tres días intensos que nos dejaron con ganas de más. La premisa del trabajo fue desplazar por un tiempo el texto del centro de la escritura. Explorar los mundos de ficción (y no ficción) más allá de la palabra, antes de la palabra, asumiendo que cada uno de estos universos está poblado por una multiplicidad de materias y formas. En este caso, la puerta de entrada es la música. Como podría ser alguna otra manifestación, artística o de cualquier tipo. Trabajamos con Macondo, una obra para piano y percusión del compositor argentino Carmelo Saitta.

En la primera jornada, luego de que cada cual hiciera una descripción de la novela, cuento, crónica o monólogo, que proyectaba escribir, escribía o bien ya empezaba a corregir, nos dedicamos a escuchar y desde ahí rastrear los confines de cada mundo. Durante el segundo encuentro, escribimos haciendo foco en el cruce de lenguajes. Finalmente, el tercer día, se leyeron los borradores surgidos de la experiencia algunos de los cuales publicamos a continuación.

por Amalia Boselli

Así como la génesis de un poema sinfónico puede ser una historia, en el T.E.M el origen de una narración puede ser una melodía, un ritmo, la banda sonora de una idea. El material con el que escribimos ya sea ficción, poesía u ensayo tiene sus propias leyes y lo que exploramos en el T.E.M es que esas leyes pueden tener un correlato musical. Y es que con Iosi Havilio nos propusimos un laboratorio donde bucear dentro de una obra musical. Arte de sonidos, un arte abstracto, pero sin embargo cargado de sentido. Elegimos el lenguaje musical porque fue fuente en nuestros propios recorridos, dos estudiantes de composición devenidos escritores, que tal vez compongan piezas para ser leídas. En ese umbral difuso la idea cobra un sentido experimental y las líneas, los movimientos, la escritura analógica forman parte de la escucha activa que alimentan el pre-texto.

El resultado, un intenso trabajo de tres tardes en el encuentro de escritores latinoamericanos de Casa de Las Américas, Casa Tomada, mucho para llevarse a casa y seguir, siempre seguir escribiendo.

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por Yonnier Torres Rodríguez (Placetas, 1981)


Julio intenta sacudirse los demonios Se pone de pie Camina alrededor de la sala Quisiera meterse la mano en la garganta agarrar al lobo por el cuello tirarlo al piso darle patadas patadas patadas.


Julio abre la ventana mira afuera a la mole compacta de edificios a las decenas de ventanas abiertas a la superficie encabritada del mar Mira adentro al desgaste de cuatro paredes al polvo sobre los muebles a la soledad como un conejo gris señoreando al centro de la mesa Avanza hacia la cocina Abre la alacena La cierra Enciende el fogón se concentra en las llamas azules Toma un cuchillo Quisiera abrirse en dos la barriga atrapar al lobo por el cuello tirarlo al piso darle patadas patadas patadas.


Julio regresa al cuarto Tiende la cama La destiendeToma el libro de Herman Hesse que hasta el momento descansaba en la mesita de noche Lo pone boca abajo Camina hasta el baño Se mira al espejo se mira con dureza Intenta que aflore el lobo que muestre todos sus dientes para atraparlo por el cuello tirarlo al piso darle patadas patadas patadas.


Julio sale afuera En la esquina junto al semáforo los autos se detienen Esperan Continúan la marcha Una mujer grita desde lo alto de un balcón alguien le responde Julio se para en medio de la calle no atiende al claxon no mira al frenteEl lobo lo toma por el cuello lo tira al piso y le da patadas patadas patadas.

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por Maeva Peraza

Las calles siempre estaban desoladas cuando caminábamos juntos, esa era una de las tantas condiciones que acordábamos para salir a dar un paseo, elegíamos una ruta al azar y el camino que comenzaba nos estimulaba a acompañar su soledad. Pero aquella vez fue diferente, siempre hay una vez diferente, solo que no creí que nunca más vería a Alberto de nuevo.

Avanzábamos despacio, no teníamos una meta, pues no pretendíamos llegar a ningún lugar. Alberto me hablaba con su voz pausada, imperceptible, como si lo agotara una ternura milenaria. Nuestro tema eran los amantes fosilizados de Pompeya cuando erupcionó el Vesubio, jugábamos a imaginar los últimos diez minutos de la ciudad antes de ser arrasada por la lava. Él me describía la intimidad de las mujeres en los baños, de la zona de los burdeles, de Estabia y sus fuentes, pero yo dejé de escucharle; me percaté de que ninguna calle tenía salida. Al principio pensé que era un accidente, tal vez el estar sumidos en la conversación nos hacía volver sobre nuestros pasos, pero después de caminar tres kilómetros en círculos comencé a asustarme. Le comenté a Alberto lo que sucedía, él aún estaba hablando de los amantes del Vesubio y me sonrió escéptico, aunque instintivamente, casi al unísono, apuramos el paso y encontramos nuevamente otro callejón sin salida.

Corrimos en vano por media hora, casi jadeando nos detuvimos a la entrada de un parque y nos sentamos a recuperar el aliento, a intentar hacer un plan. Yo le dije que lo mejor era esperar al amanecer, que tenía miedo, que me abrazara, pero él no respondió, se había levantado y caminaba hacia el columpio doble hecho para los enamorados. No entendía nada, mas fui a detenerlo, él me explicó que en el columpio estaba Harry Haller y que debía preguntarle algo. Temí por Alberto, sabía que Harry era un lobo, que era peligroso y que además estaba solo, pero Alberto me tranquilizó cuando me mostró sus garras y me guiñó uno de sus ojos felinos…

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por Cardo

La angustia existe sí.
Como la desesperanza
el crimen
o el odio
¿Para quién deberá ser la voz del poeta? 

Roque Dalton

Camino en una habitación cuadrada, choco y topo con sus muros. Las obras de artistas anónimos para mí me ocultan su mirada: una mujer la esconde entre su pecho y sus piernas, la de la fotografía no me mira, las de la pintura se ven entre ellas, y tu dibujo, que me has dejado como único recuerdo material de ti, mira; pero al igual que las demás, no hacia mí…

Intento ver hacia la ventana como lo hacías y ver el horizonte: imposible.

¿Por qué los días esperanzan con el alba?

Como las manecillas de un reloj las cosas se fueron acomodando… no a nuestro favor, alguien, lo que sea, arruina nuestra existencia.

Cuando me enteré todo se convirtió en escasos murmullos de mi interior; miedo y temor compartido de no saber de ti.

Intentamos ayudarte, no queremos dejarlo así…

Quizá ayude re-descubrirse, gritarlo, mirar hacia atrás: Como un sueño, o mejor dicho como un ensueño antes de conocerte ya te conocía. Fue gracias a ella que pudimos dialogar, hace unos años, en ese jardín.

Silencios hubo muchos, proyectos también, diálogos nunca faltaron, y los disgustos, por fortuna, fueron pocos.

Ahora todo tiene que ser intentar seguir, y recurrir a esa mentada palabra: luchar.

Tú, ahora…

Te pido algo muy difícil para ti: paciencia.

Sobre esta última terrible palabra quiero decirte que también la odio.

miércoles, 16 de octubre de 2013


Mariano Pagés lee Paraísos y escribe este artículo para El Litoral anticipando la presentación del próximo viernes 18 de octubre a las 20.30 
en la Librería Palabras Andantes de Santa Fé. La invitación, al pie. 

El zoológico como metáfora

Las tres novelas de Iosi Havilio son relatos de viajes y los personajes protagónicos, conforme a las peripecias por las que atraviesan y los diferentes partenaires que los acompañen tendrán un derrotero, por momentos, indiferente a los hechos, y por momentos, vertiginoso.

Un recorrido contingente es el que inicia la narradora con su hijo en “Paraísos”: luego de la muerte de su pareja, Jaime, un amante viejo, bruto y rústico, de quien se enamora en la primera novela, así leemos, en boca de la narradora: “... un recuerdo fugaz de este hombre tosco del que me enamoré sin querer y me desanomoré sin darme cuenta”; una voz extranjera e inexpresiva nos dice: “Después de esta segunda visita, las cosas, por azar o por necesidad se precipitaron. Una acumulación de episodios no tanto graves como significativos terminaron de expulsarnos”, la narradora vuelve a Buenos Aires y recala en un cuarto de pensión, allí conoce a Iris, su partenaire rumana y pasiva, “... con esa mezcla de fastidio e indiferencia tan suya”, dice la narradora, refiriéndose a Iris; la protagonista consigue trabajo en un serpentario de un zoológico y finalmente, a instancias de un compañero de trabajo, un tal Canetti, un ex empleado bancario devenido en ordenanza del zoológico, accede a aplicarle dosis de morfina a Tosca, una enferma terminal que regentea una torre tomada, y le propone vivir allí, a modo de pago. La fauna de El Buti, la torre tomada, es una galería de personajes desolados y marginales - dealers, travestis, lúmpenes-, movidos por la supervivencia, que acompaña algunas de las peripecias de la narradora; la mirada lisérgica que tiene el personaje sobre los habitantes de la torre prefigura en escala el mundo de sobrevivientes marginales con el que le toca socializarse: “El resto, más o menos alegres, más o menos pesados, desfilan delante nuestro sin cesar: Benito, Sonia, Canetti, Herbert, Perico y los chicos duros, en banda. Simón corretea detrás de unas nenitas con caras asiáticas. Las capas de realidad, todo lo que veo, me conducen a un limbo ácido, alucinante”.

jueves, 10 de octubre de 2013

The Buenos Aires Affair

Brenda Lozano, autora de Todo Nada, escribe para Letras Libres
una crónica de sus días y lecturas en Buenos Aires. 

Buenos Aires tenía un orden, un orden de música y libros. Algunos amigos argentinos, tantas canciones, algunos libros, varias veces cantar esas canciones, platicar de esos libros, todas esas líneas que terminaron formando una flecha apuntando al sur: pasé tres meses en Buenos Aires. Era la primera vez que iba a la Ciudad de la Furia, Ciudad Evita, Ciudad Fernet, Ciudad Psicoanálisis. La ciudad de Charly García, Soda Stereo, Illya Kuryaki, Babasónicos, la de los libros de Di Benedetto, Saer, Fogwill y Roberto Arlt. A los dieciséis años leí a Borges, me enamoré y cantaba “me dejarás dormir al amanecer entre tus piernas” como si supiera lo que quería decir, como si entendiera también lo que quería decir Borges y como si él fuera a entenderlo todo con una tímida dedicatoria en el ejemplar de El Aleph que le regalé ese verano.
Y es que Buenos Aires tiene un orden sentimental a la distancia. A pesar de estar allí, uno pasea con la idea que se ha formado a la distancia. El orden de Borges y Bioy: las dos figuras de cera en la cafetería La Biela. El de las míticas cafeterías y deliciosas parrillas. El de Palermo, Recoleta, el de la avenida Corrientes. La librería El Ateneo. El orden del pasado. Pero pronto el nombre de la ciudad, esa sonrisa como de fotografía, cambia su gesto. Da la bienvenida a otros barrios, otras calles, otras cafeterías sin sillas célebres. Un bar perdido, un restaurante sin clientes, un grupo sin futuro en el escenario, una fiesta decrépitamente divertida. Lo que no llega, lo que no viaja, lo que no se publica. Su neurosis, sus problemas. Todo su encanto. Sin olvidar esa distancia que separa a México de Argentina, se hacen evidentes las palabras, las expresiones, las diferencias entre un lugar y otro. Por la noche, con el cepillo de dientes en la boca, al ver cómo el agua se va al otro lado, ver ese pequeño remolino en otra dirección, esa miniatura de la distancia es también parte de su encanto.
Pablo Katchadjian (1977) escribió El Aleph engordado, su primera novela, añadiéndole páginas al cuento de Borges. Su poemario, El Martín Fierro ordenado alfabéticamente, es precisamente eso. ¿Romper, cortar, metamorfosear a los ídolos? ¿Adelgazar Cien años de soledad? Algunas preguntas que apelan al arte que se hace hoy. Ordenar alfabéticamente es un orden ilusorio, como pasa con las entradas en el diccionario (palabras vecinas que fácilmente se convierten en melodrama). Ese aparente orden, ese caos con el que empieza todo también para los griegos, es la base de la estupenda novela breve Qué hacer (Bajo la Luna, 2010), en la que dos inseparables profesores universitarios, que aparecen y desaparecen en escenarios uno más enloquecido que otro, parecen recordar lo espontáneo, lo melódico. El juego.