Monday 3 September 2018

A selection of 

A first fifteen of the mind.
Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges           $14
A collection of many of his most interesting stories, bursting every conceptual boundary, including 'Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius', 'The Garden of Forking Paths', and 'The Library of Babel'. 
>> Also in stock: Borges in Sicily

Slum Virgin by Gabriela Cabezón Cámara      $32
A Buenos Aires slum is transformed into a tiny utopia when a transvestite is led by a divine revelation to steer the community. The lively separatism of the shantytown attracts and then subsumes a journalist at first intent only on a story.
>> Read an extract.

Southerly by Jorge Consiglio          $32
On the eve of an important battle, a colonel is visited in his tent by an indigenous woman with a message to pass on. A man sets about renovating the house of his childhood, and starts to feel that he might be rebuilding his own life in the process. At a private clinic to treat the morbidly obese, a caregiver has issues of her own. Stories of immigration, marginality, history, intimacy and obsession from an acclaimed Argentinian author. 

Hopscotch and Blow-Up by Julio Cortázar      $40
Cortázar's 'counter-novel' Hopscotch assails normative preconceptions of the novel, providing 155 short chapters, which the reader is advised to read in a random order. How does this affect our reading of the 'adventures' of an Argentinian writer in Paris? Blow-Up collects much of the author's best short fiction, where improbable events continually undermine our concepts of reality. 
>> Other Cortazar titles in stock
Things We Lost in the Fire by Mariana Enriquez         $33

Mariana Enriquez’s short story collection Things we Lost in the Fire is as beguiling as it is haunting. Described as ‘Argentine Gothic’, the macabre tales encircle the supernatural, with depictions of demons and ghosts, but it is far from a traditional horror scenario. Enriquez’s characters are fascinating, sometimes eccentric, and you walk alongside them as their curiosity is piqued by the unusual, as they try to make sense of eerie happenings or become disengaged with reality in a bid to push danger away from themselves. In many of the stories the protagonists are young or searching for meaning, trying to grasp what underpins their existence. A woman goes back to live in the now run-down suburb of her childhood and has a fraught interaction with the ‘dirty kid’ who lives on the street with his junkie mother. In another story three young women live a hedonistic lifestyle, vowing allegiance to each other - blood sisters - only to increasingly see that their options in life are limited. They become obsessed with the fable of a ghost girl, a girl who walked off the bus and into the woods. They long to escape. A man, who works on a tourist bus and tells the stories of famous and nasty crimes, starts to see the ghost of a murderer - who then joins in on the antics of the retellings. But only he can see the murderer - the tourists are oblivious. Three children become fascinated with a bricked up house. One of them - the girl with one arm - is absorbed by the house, never to reappear. In all the stories there is a sense of threat and strangeness. Revenge, love, betrayal play their roles, along with superstition and jealousy, but this collection is also about poverty, corruption, political disappearances, and the violent history of Argentina. In a city seething with life, there is an undercurrent that unsettles people living on the edge of the unknown. {S}
Land of Smoke by Sara Gallardo          $28
First published in 1977 and only now translated into English, this book introduces us to a 'new' Latin American master. Gallardo's stories are surreal and philosophical, fascinating and unsettling, melancholy and funny. 
>>Read a sample story

Die, My Love by Ariana Harwicz          $32
If a thought is thought it must be thought through to its end. This formula is productive both of great misery and of great literature, but, for most people, either consequence is fairly easily avoided through a simple lack of tenacity or focus, or through fear. Unfortunately, we are not all so easily saved from ourselves by such shortcomings. The narrator of Ariana Harwicz’s razor-fine novel Die, My Love finds herself living in the French countryside with a husband and young child, incapable of feeling anything other than displaced in every aspect of her life, both trapped by and excluded from the circumstances that have come to define her. She both longs for and is revolted by family life with her husband and child, the violence of her ambivalences make her incapable of either accepting or changing a situation about which there is nothing ostensibly wrong, she withdraws into herself, and, as the gap separating herself from the rest of existence widens, her attempts to bridge it become both more desperate and more doomed, further widening the gap. Every detail of everything around her causes her pain and harms her ability to feel anything other than the opposite of the way she feels she should feel. This negative electrostatic charge, so to call it, builds and builds but she is unable to discharge it, to return her situation to ‘normal’, to relieve the torment. In some ways, the support and love of her husband make it harder to regain a grip on ‘reality’ - if her husband had been a monster, her battles could have been played out in their home rather than inside her (it is for this reason, perhaps, that people subconsciously choose partners who will justify the negative feelings towards which they are inclined). The narrator feels more affinity with animals than with humans, she behaves erratically or not at all, she becomes obsessed with a neighbour but the encounters with him that she describes, and the moments of self-obliterative release they provide, are, I would say, entirely fantasised. Between these fantasies and ‘objective reality’, however, falls a wide area about which we and she must remain uncertain whether her perceptions, understandings and reactions are accurate or appropriate. At times the narrator’s love for her child creates small oases of anxiety in her depression, but these become rarer. Harwicz’s writing is exquisite, both sensitive and brutal, both lucid and claustrophobic, her observations both subtle and overwhelming. As the narrator loses her footing, the writer ensures that we are borne with her on through the novel, an experience not dissimilar to gathering speed downhill in a runaway pram*. {T}  * Not a spoiler. 
Petite Fleur by Ioso Havilio      $30
When José’s job goes up in flames, literally, at the fireworks factory, he is at a loss. In a funk, he suddenly finds himself without purpose or motivation. His wife Laura suggests that she goes back to work at the publishing company and leave him to care for their young daughter and home. At first, José feels undermined by his new status, but he quickly falls into the swing of his new role as a domestic star - setting himself cleaning goals and garden projects. As he flourishes, Laura, forced into a more minor role at the publishing company, becomes increasingly embittered and trapped in her job, and this is only further aggravated by Antonia’s increasing rejection of her mother as their daughter gravitates towards José as the primary caregiver. One of the garden projects requires a spade, something that the couple do not possess. One evening, invigorated by his new passions, José knocks on Guillermo’s (the neighbour's) door to borrow a spade. Invited in, a friendship strikes up between the two, and they start to spend Thursday evenings together, drinking and listening to jazz. Guillermo is a jazz obsessive and, as the evening goes on and the drinks go down, he becomes excitable and increasingly animated until José draws the night to a close, often abruptly, with his new found ‘talent’ - a talent so utterly surprising to the reader the first time it happens you will wonder what you have stepped into. Iosi Havilio’s Petite Fleur (named for a jazz piecewhich is Guillermo’s favourite - he has 125 different recordings) is a lively, macabre and sharply witty portrayal of domestic suburbia, both its bliss and its terrible suffocation. José is a study in paranoia, perfection and obsession - along with odd lapses into clumsiness and childish impulses. As a reader, you will wonder how reliable our narrator is. His clichéd love of Russian literature (Tolstoy), his unwise erotic fantasies and his seeming unconcern for others make José an intriguing character - one whom you want to follow, even when he is repellent. His talent, violent and guiltless, will leave you reeling beyond the last sentence.  {S}
People in the Room by Norah Lange         $34
A woman becomes obsessed with the women who live across the street. The stories she projects upon them become more and more extreme, creating a fascinating portrait of desire, voyeurism and isolation. The first novel of this significant Argentine author (and associate of Borges) to be translated into English. Why has it taken so long?
"A deathly scene from a wax museum come to life." - Cesar Aira
>> "Not a novel to be read for pleasure." 
>> Read an extract.
Thus Were Their Faces: The collected short stories by Silvina Ocampo       $35
"I don't know another writer who better captures the magic inside everyday rituals, the forbidden or hidden face that our mirrors don't show us." - Italo CValvino
Savage Theories by Pola Oloixarac           $35
Rosa Ostreech, a pseudonym for the novel's beautiful but self-conscious narrator, carries around a trilingual edition of Aristotle's Metaphysics, struggles with her thesis on violence and culture, sleeps with a bourgeois former guerrilla, and pursues her elderly professor with a highly charged blend of eroticism and desperation. Elsewhere on campus, Pabst and Kamtchowsky tour the underground scene of Buenos Aires, dabbling in ketamine, group sex, video games, and hacking. And in Africa in 1917, a Dutch anthropologist named Johan van Vliet begins work on a theory that explains human consciousness and civilization by reference to our early primate ancestors-animals, who, in the process of becoming human, spent thousands of years as prey.
"A stunning vibrant maximalist whirlwind of a novel. Oloixarac's wit and ambition are evident on every page. By comparison, most other contemporary fiction seems a little dull and simple-minded." -Hari Kunzru

The President's Room by Ricardo Romero         $29
In a nameless suburb in an equally nameless country, every house has a room reserved for the president. No one knows when or why this came to be. It’s simply how things are, and no one seems to question it except for one young boy. Can anyone - the narrator? even the reader? - be trusted to tell the truth? Overtones of Cortázar and Kafka potentise the sinister mystery surrounding the room that is both many rooms and no room. 

Glaxo by Hernan Ronsino       $37
Told from four different viewpoints and in four different decades, the story of both the effects of and the contributory factors to a murder does no so much unfold as fold in and in upon itself, becoming increasingly claustrophobic, despite the beautifully spare and open prose and the pampas setting, until it closes in upon the pivotal act itself, which causes all the previously read sections to shift and realign and reveal their significance. The mechanism is so well-oiled and precisely wrought that the great weights of economic change and the political turbulence of the 1950s (including of the León Suarez massacre) swing just out of sight. When the train tracks are torn up in the 1970s, the Glaxo pharmaceutical factory continues to loom above the town and above the novel, out of sight, a shadow across the text.  {T}

Fireflies by Luis Sagasti          $30
How do we make our histories? Why is it that memory assembles certain illuminated moments into a kind of story? Segasti is fully aware that each moment in life or literature is an amalgam of numerous stories and times, all having bearing on a moment's experience, and concocts this novel with, among other referents,  dashes of Joseph Beuys, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Japanese poets and Russian cosmonauts. 
Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin          $23
Fear (as opposed to anxiety, terror, horror, angst and its other cousins) clarifies perception and heightens the significance of details, much as does good writing, building an electrostatic charge which almost craves, yet ultimately resists, the release offered by the revelation of the feared. Schweblin’s short novel is like a Van de Graaff generator, building a textual charge that can be felt up the spine long after the book is finished. The book sustains three narrative levels most of the way through: Amanda, a woman apparently on her deathbed in a clinic, is urged with increasing intensity by David, someone ostensibly a child, to narrate a seemingly recent series of events when Amanda, who was on holiday with her young daughter Nina in the environs of a small Argentinian town, spent some time with Clara, the mother of her interrogator. The third narrative level is provided by Amanda reporting the stories told to her by Clara, largely concerning David’s contact with the environmental poison that contaminates the whole novel and is the cause of the deaths of animals and humans in the area and the cause of deformities, illnesses and eldritch personalities among the children who survive. A fourth narrative layer is occasionally provided by Amanda reporting Clara’s reports of things told to her by her husband. In the surface layer, David’s demeanor, demands and speech are very unchildlike, bringing into question his status as a child, and also the length of time since the events narrated by Amanda occurred. He seems very like the part of an author that drives the narrating part to narrate and we cannot be sure how much of the story has a ‘factual’ basis. In addition, the narrator is apparently suffering a high fever, and the heightened but narrowed perceptions destabilised by hallucination, or by the uncertainty about whether what is perceived is a hallucination or not (which is the most frightening thing about hallucinations), combined with the compelling fear is both typical of fever and a further destabilisation of the narrative. Towards the end of the book, the David character ceases to question Amanda, and Amanda goes on, unguided, to narrate her husband’s visit to Clara’s husband some time after, presumably, both Amanda’s and Clara’s deaths, a visit that she cannot know about, further undermining the veracity of the narrative and deepening doubts about Amanda’s relationship to it. Amanda’s story demonstrates that being within ‘rescue distance’ is not enough to save those we love when the world is saturated in literal and metaphorical poisons, and we lose those we love by letting them slip from their places in our narratives and losing the specificity of their identities.  {T}

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