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sharif78 has commented on (3) products.

Last Evenings on Earth by Roberto Bolano
Last Evenings on Earth

sharif78, May 20, 2007

We never stop reading, although every book comes to an end, just as we never stop living, although death is certain.

I dig Latin American writers, maybe it is the underlying socialist, post colonial theme or maybe the unconventional styles, once in a while there will be some writers that I cannot ignore. Roberto Bola?o, a Chilean novelist and poet is one of those writers. There is a recent surge of interest in his works due to English translations. He lived most of his life as nomad and this theme shows up in Last Evenings on Earth, a collection of 14 short stories wonderfully translated from Spanish by Chris Andrews. The horrors of Pinochet regime, loneliness of the Chilean exiles in Europe are some other concurrent themes.

Another interesting aspect of these stories is the characters that describe their literary tastes. We get to know, a writer, simply called B, aimlessly traveling in Mexico and Spain, who is obsessed with European and obscure Latin American writers. Here you can read the story Dance cards, from the collection on its entirety. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2003 at the age of 50.
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(8 of 15 readers found this comment helpful)

The Elephant Vanishes: Stories by Haruki Murakami
The Elephant Vanishes: Stories

sharif78, May 20, 2007

The Elephant Vanishes (1993) is a collection of short stories by Haruki Murakami, one of the most popular writers in Japan. I enjoyed it more than After the Quake. I haven't read any of his novels yet.

Murakami's style is very simple with a lighthearted tone yet he could paint a complex picture. While reading, I always expect he would explain certain things, but he never does, leaves the reader in a limbo. But that's his style, not the typical conflict-crisis-resolution format. One of my favorite stories is The Second Bakery Attack, in which a husband and wife hold up a McDonald's and steal 30 hamburgers, grilled for takeout, although the manager offers them money instead. The husband thought he was under a curse, when he robbed a bakery years ago. After they got married, the wife suggested that to get out of the curse he needs to rob another bakery. They could not find a bakery open after 2am, so McDonald's was the closest thing they can find, not a bakery but they have bread. Another one I liked was Lederhosen, very offbeat. Murakami shows how a pair of shorts could lead to the divorce of a long-married Japanese couple.
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(10 of 20 readers found this comment helpful)

The Book of Chameleons
The Book of Chameleons

sharif78, May 17, 2007

The Book of Chameleons (O vendedor de passados in Portuguese) by Angloan author Jos? Eduardo Agualusa is one of the best things I have read so far this year. I have found the book very witty, filled with originality. A nice translation done by Daniel Hahn. It is a poetic tale narrated by a mysterious gecko that lives with Felix Ventura, an albino who sells histories for a living. If you want a distinguished past filled with heroes and luminaries, hire Felix. He will invent a family line for you with proper documentations. His business card reads 'guarantee your children a better past'. In the story, he gets involved with one of the fantasy worlds that he created when a secretive foreign photographer asked for his service.

The chapters in book read like short stories, somewhat disconnected, yet at the end one can find the thread. The style is very similar to magical realism with a small dose of murder mystery and thriller. Here's one of my favorite passages, where Felix talks about his childhood:
"The priest talked of angels, and I saw chickens. To this day, in fact, of all the things I've seen, chicken are still the ones that most closely resembles angels. He talked of heavenly joy, and I saw chickens scrabbling away in the sun, digging up little nests in the sand, turning their little glass eyes in pure mystical bliss. I can't imagine Paradise without chickens. I can even imagine the Great God, reclining lazily on a fluffy bed of clouds, without his being surrounded by a gentle host of chickens. You know something -- I've never known a bad chicken -- have you? Chickens, like white ants, like butterflies, are altogether immune against evil."
Beautiful. I highly recommend this book.
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(7 of 10 readers found this comment helpful)

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