Uno regresa a la literatura del siglo XVII en busca de cornucopias y los manjares que contienen; aquella forma de usar el castellano que da placer leeUno regresa a la literatura del siglo XVII en busca de cornucopias y los manjares que contienen; aquella forma de usar el castellano que da placer leer y repetir en voz alta, divertidas palabras arcaicas que hace mucho cayeron en desuso, costumbres y cosas del ayer que se han perdido, como el uso de extracto de raíz de mandrágora para pociones de amor por sus cualidades erógenas, o que los judíos redimidos debían llevar el "Aspa de San Andrés" por las calles de la ciudad (eso es, una cruz roja sobre un capote amarillo) lo cual me debía haber enseñado Don Juan Antonio Llorente y no Don Francisco de Quevedo.
Y porsupuesto, en la cornucopia encontraremos exquisitas frases como por ejemplo:
"Tenia la mano derecha encubierta de un lado pues preñada de cuatro, paria tres" (tramposo con los naipes)
"Y dejo caer el descuadernado" (la baraja)
"Conciencia en mercader es como virgo en cantonera, que se vende sin haberle" (se los dejo de tarea jeje)
"No levantaba los ojos a las mujeres, pero las faldas si"
Ahi lo tienen; ¡Picaro! ¿Y que mas pudiera haberle pasado a este hijo bastardo de Quevedo? Se publico y re-publico sin su autorización, regandose por Europa, cementando el arquetipo iniciado por el Lazarillo y Mateo Alemán y así haciéndose internacional, siendo muchos los padrastros del genero.
Pero en algo tal vez se equivoco esa placa que me encontré al azar debajo de un puente en Segovia cuando la visite en el verano del 2013, y que decía: "En esta ciudad creados por el ingenio del mas alto humorista, Don Francisco de Quevedo, nació El Buscon Don Pablos. Espejo de picaros y gran tacaño..." y sin embargo despues de tantos siglos, ¡Cuanta gracia sigue derrochando! ...more
Cocteau's uniqueness lies in his ease of heart and art, which seems to have grown unhindered from that critical moment in kindergarten*, when a childCocteau's uniqueness lies in his ease of heart and art, which seems to have grown unhindered from that critical moment in kindergarten*, when a child is first exposed to paint and brushes (or crayons) and discovers art. If you have witnessed such a moment, you will have no doubt in your mind that art flows naturally in all human nature. But not equally. Some children simply don't have the sensibility demanded by subjective abstraction. In time, even those born with that type of susceptibility can be stunted by the world in a such a way that their art becomes tortuous, morose, even cynical.
Cocteau lived in a such a milieu of solemn and even suicidal peers, and yet he stood childlike throughout his life, giving free rein to all artistic endeavors in brainstorm fashion; watch his films, read his literature, hear him speak in his twilight years and you'll see an artist that was true to his calling through thick and thin. He gathered artists around him like a sponge, and he was instrumental if not responsible for uniting the rive droite and rive gauche, launching the Montmartre/Montparnasse clique into the mainstream.
This is what always appealed to me about Jean Cocteau, and the beauty of "Les Enfants Terribles" as in all the art he dabbled in, is characterized by the ebbs and flows of emotion that rise to a pitch and then decline to rise again. It is composed of memorable thoughts, passages and descriptions that reveals to us his genius while regrettably leaving the overall result inconclusive. We always seem to be left wanting more.
Les Enfants Terribles is an exception, because after setting up the self righteous machinations of a jealous sister who manipulates two lovers (his brother Paul and friend Agatha) into never revealing themselves their love (coaxing Agatha to marry the listless Gerard), Cocteau gives us justice; the truth revealed at last when it's too late, as Paul lies dying in Agatha's arms.
Having met in my life a plentiful stock of such self righteous interlopers, who misguide and reroute true feelings, preventing love to take root for their own arcane reasons, Cocteau's delivery of vindication, even at death's door, spoke to me powerfully and personally.
He could have chosen to let the charade stand, but he chose between two kinds of suffering; the one that comes with the painful truth and the one that recoils upon a lie.
Moreover, this book gives shape and form to another subject that often occupies my thoughts; that of foreboding a future someone and her particular characteristics, the presentiment that we are always chasing for a face that already exists, and that everything we've chased since resembles. Paul discovers that Agatha is and was that prototype he had always been looking for.
Thus for me "Les Enfants Terribles" has fulfilled that promise that Jean Cocteau left this world and that is inscribed in his grave at Saint-Blaise des Simples, "I stay with you"
"Je reste avec vous"
*Or childhood. I'm not sure that Cocteau attended kindergarten ...more
I feast on Balzac's human comedy at least once every year, and I devour his fiction always like a pleasant roadside repast (somewhere on Earth where sI feast on Balzac's human comedy at least once every year, and I devour his fiction always like a pleasant roadside repast (somewhere on Earth where such repast is not franchisable), as it helps one to pivot back into the road with renewed energy after a long and tired journey through certain types of reading landscapes.
Thus I picked "A Passion in the Desert and Other stories" expecting to rest, enjoy, and savor, but instead found myself joyfully mortified, bemused and taken aback. Some of the stories I just read rank among the finest ever; "El Verdugo", "The Atheist Mass" and the title story "A passion in the Desert" are absolute musts for any fan of literature of any age.
"El Verdugo", where a young Marquis has to execute his whole family as a macabre bargain to save his family line during the Napoleonic occupation of Spain was physically gut wrenching, and goes to places where not even the masters of cruelly tinged short stories Villiers de l'isle Adams, Horacio Quiroga or Ambroce Bierce himself never dared to go.
Some rare treats lie hidden inside some of these stories as well, such as a portrait of Horace by Balzac inside "The Atheist Mass", a revelation of one of Balzac sources for his Human Comedy, the Fauburg, on "Facino Cane" and one of the best closing lines ever at the end of "A passion in the Desert", where an uneasy master-and-pet relationship unfolds between a Napoleonic soldier and a panther in the Egyptian desert.
Enter Balzac's Inn in full confidence that the robust and corpulent owner will take care of your hunger. You'll eat and drink well without fear of indigestion....more
This verse from "Beppo" describes exactly what New Yorkers feel often during our daily commute or walking through the streets:
"One of those forms whiThis verse from "Beppo" describes exactly what New Yorkers feel often during our daily commute or walking through the streets:
"One of those forms which flit by us, when we Are young and fix our eyes on every face; And, oh! the loveliness at times we see In momentary gliding, the soft grace, The youth, the bloom, the beauty which agree, In many a nameless being we retrace, Whose course and home we knew not, nor shall know..."...more
Jose Mauro de Vasconcelos, del cual desconocía su obra y prolijidad antes de recibir este libro como regalo de Navidad, me ha dejado preguntas profundJose Mauro de Vasconcelos, del cual desconocía su obra y prolijidad antes de recibir este libro como regalo de Navidad, me ha dejado preguntas profundas sobre que es mas efectivo en la creación literaria; la precisión y belleza de la forma, o la intensidad del contenido.
El libro es de una accesibilidad que peca por falta de sustancia y belleza estética, pero lo que le falta en verbo lo tiene en creces en emoción, e inteligencia dramática.
Increíblemente, este sencillo libro me ha conmovido mas que muchos otros en virtud de su honestidad y de su ternura; contado desde la perspectiva de un niño de 5 anos, el libro perdería todo su efecto si el narrador fuera un adulto omnisciente. Es precisamente la puerilidad de los pensamientos y del dialogo lo que acerca esta historia a una realidad de carne y hueso, salvo aquellos momentos donde la voz escondida del autor deja asomar uno que otro momento filosófico en la descripción de las cosas, el libro podría ser considerado un equivalente literario al Cinéma Vérité, o mas cercano aun, a las películas del Nouvelle Vague Francés, específicamente "Les 400 Coups" de François Truffaut, cuyo argumento central (el de los dolores y maltratos sufridos por un niño) se le asemeja.
Pero "Mi planta de Naranja Lima" si bien muestra la realidad de la calle sin un filtro y sin imposiciones de estilo tal y como "Les 400 Coups", supera a la película Francesa al representar con una vivacidad brutal las cosas del corazón. La ternura y compasión que sentimos por el protagonista, por sus formulaciones inocentes, y por las tragedias vividas es verdaderamente desgarradora, a tal punto que aunque un buen libro puede de rigor arrancarle una que otra lagrima a un lector sensible, este libro supo arrancarme varias, y tuvo a mi garganta varias veces en jaque.
Si a fin de cuentas un libro triunfa cuando establece una conexión con su lector, entonces este ha hecho su trabajo a pesar de sus percibidas deficiencias estilísticas, las mismas que aparecen banales ante la compasión, la empatía y las preguntas con las que esta sencilla historia inunda nuestro pensamiento.
Este es un libro que nos recuerda las cosas que importan y que no importan en la vida de un individuo, ademas de lo trágico que verdaderamente es aquel momento en el que perdemos nuestra inocencia.
Es por eso que se merece cinco estrellas, porque con frugal sencillez, hoy me ha hecho sentir mas humano.
Beginning with "Bel Ami" on January 2011, I begun a tradition of starting the year by reading a book by Guy de Maupassant. I've read all of his novelsBeginning with "Bel Ami" on January 2011, I begun a tradition of starting the year by reading a book by Guy de Maupassant. I've read all of his novels in chronological order since, with the exception of Une Vie (his first novel) and his two unfinished ones; Foreign Souls and The Angelus. Before that, he had already become my favorite prose writer via his short stories, and I actually keep the Artine Artinian edition of the "Complete Short Stories of Guy de Maupassant" (the most authoritative and definitely complete edition in the English language) close by and as a permanent fixture of my wall decor.
Now that you can gauge my bias, I can proceed with this review.
Alien Hearts was his last complete novel, and as per usual, a masterpiece. When it comes to appreciating a piece of prose, I've learned that there are ages that are more ripe for certain type of authors and certain type of books. There are authors that possess a rare all-encompassing facility of reach, like Dumas père, which can be read at any age and at any time of one's life. Other authors, like Kafka, are better sampled after one has lived, suffered, and seen a little.
Guy de Maupassant conforms to this latter category.
His uniqueness rests in his masterful ability to inhabit and explore the psychological labyrinths behind each of his characters thoughts and actions. As a narrator, he has no equal, precisely because his omniscient presence in the character's inner thoughts discover for us those moral conflicts and sinister possibilities seldom revealed by other authors and that we recognize as ugly or unfortunate truths.
His probity when revealing the base regions of humanity gained him unfair or short sighted assesments as a "pessimist" by some quarters in his day; but some of these critiques by the likes of Tolstoy or Jules Lemaitre should be contextualized. Now, over a hundred years after his death, and living in an age where that level of propriety (or hypocritical propriety as Guy would have it) is long gone, Guy de Maupassant can be a thrill to read in this day and age, as long as our reader is acquainted with the historical parameters of the late XIXth century. Without knowing these, Maupassant (or almost any other author of that period for that matter) risks a puerile assessment by a modern-centric critic. Maupassant's prose; his paragraphs, turns of mind, and earthly as well as inner descriptions, even in translation, are to the point, incisive, effective. I can't say the same for other XIXth century hallmarks, (like "The House of Seven Gables" which is giving me grief), but there are XIXth authors that undeniably age well, and whose writings have stood the test of time, such as Ambrose Bierce, Chejov, Jack London (yes, I consider his work as late XIXth century literature despite the fact that his major works belong to the 1900-1912 period, and he only published short stories in the 1890's) , Flaubert, Gogol, etc. Thus, I would recommend to be very suspect of reviews that dare give any of Maupassant's books a rough treatment. This is not a matter of taste, but a matter of discernment. A reader of XXIth thrillers is hardly going to appreciate Don Quixote, let alone Maupassant, and there's a reason for that which has nothing to do with the author's merit.
Alien Hearts makes you ache, think, laugh, wryly smile, and live more dearly. Such is the extract of masterpieces. Guy de Maupassant's biting indictment of human frailty secretly yearns for innocence, love, and hope. Therein we find where the author's heart really lies; on the side of compassion that has acknowledged despair.
In 2004, in a crevice on Maupassant's tomb in the Montparnasse Cementery in Paris, I left a picture of myself so a little of me could always keep company to the earthly remains of my favorite writer of all time. It is but a trifle of a thing to do to repay those words which have kept me company before and ever since. ...more