Blitz by David Trueba

Blitz is a short novel by David Trueba, a Spanish film director and screenwriter. Una historia de amor, it turned out in the end, and a strange one. A quick delightful read, eh.


En la tele emitían resúmenes informativos del año. Todos hablaban de la crisis económica. En el recordatorio, la presidenta alemana Merkel, con su rigidez, daba una mano fría a los presidentes sucesivos de España, primero Zapatero con sus cejas de bebé asustado y luego Rajoy con esa ausencia de personalidad idéntica al muñeco abandonado de un ventrílocuo. Ambos parecían pedir de ella más que un apretón de manos, quizá ser acunados, que los acercara a su pecho para darles de mamar. Pero ella no era la madre que buscaban.


Triste, Solitario y Final by Osvaldo Soriano

It turned out I was wrong – No Habrá Más Penas Ni Olvido, one of the best short novels I've ever read in Spanish, wasn't Soriano's first book – Triste was.

Triste is a strange film-noiresque story about Ray Chandler's private eye Philip Marlowe in his sixties and near retirement and a literary version of Soriano himself, united on a strange two-man mission in the 1970s Hollywood. An homage both to Chandler's fiction and the silent movies by Laurel and Hardy, the book takes a few unexpected twists over its literary cortometraje.

In my opinion, that's not Soriano's best, but after No Habrá … and Cuarteles de Invierno this Argentinian classic has a pass for anything. Soriano wrote only seven novels in his lifetime, Triste and the two mentioned above being his first ones – and La Hora Sin Sombra his last one, an unreadable book to my taste, I gave up on it – and still, the positive impact of the two Colonia Vela novels is so strong, that despite I was lukewarm about this one and very negative on his last one, the three unread books are on my reading list.

In fact, in light of today's sad and disturbing events in Ukraine's Crimea, I strongly suggest that everyone who hasn't done so yet bought and read No Habrá Más Penas ni Olvido (the English translation is called Funny Dirty Little War, the Russian, Ни горя, ни забвения), this is a perfect account of how lifetime neighbours brutally kill each other in a short localized civil war in a small Argentinian village. It is priceless and timeless.


El Enredo de la Bolsa y la Vida de Eduardo Mendoza

The fourth book was short, punchy and fun – in a sense, it made me remember the old Santiago Segura's Torrente, mainly by the vast number of ridiculous helpers of our friend the peluquero.

Again, a perfect beach read.

You don't have to read my summary – better read the one by El Pais.


La Aventura del Tocador de Señoras by Eduardo Mendoza

As expected, a perfect vacation read in mid-July, un libro verdaderamente veraniego.

La Aventura is the third book in Mendoza's well-known crazy detective series – and I like each installment more and more. El Laberinto de Las Aceitunas was definitely better than La Cripta Embrujada – and El Tocador, better than El Laberinto (though, to say the truth, while I remember La Cripta's story a little bit, I can recollect Las Aceitunas jackshit).

In a nutshell, this one particular murder story is a typical Spanish/French/whatever comedy of stupid situations – and narrated by its nameless protagonist, who is finally out of the mental institution that he had to run from investigating stuff in installments 1 and 2.

As a rather serious writer, Mendoza publishes one such piece of funny pulp a decade or so, as a pinch of sugar to his more serious novels – and, surprise-surprise, its fourth volume was out recently. Shall I indulge myself? More sugar, spice and everything nice? Umm


La Hora Sin Sombra by Osvaldo Soriano

Osvaldo Soriano is (well, was) a great Argentinian author. Bought No Habrá Más Penas ni Olvido by its cover in El Calafate and was amazed. That one and Cuarteles de Invierno are both definitely among the best books I have ever read in Spanish. Maybe in all languages. Sharp, agressive, you get glued to the pages and simply can't put the book down. There are English and Russian translations out, it's a must-read one.

But don't, please, don't believe the people who say his last novel La Hora Sin Sombra (1995) is probably his best. It is not. Or maybe it is, I don't know, if you're much older than me. 36% down the road (kindle stats are meticulous), I just can't read it anymore. The life of his father (fictitious, not real) is something I get more and more bored after each page. No central theme, no storyline, no style that I like.

I keep on telling myself I have to learn putting down and abandoning books I don't like. Here's a great chance to practice this art.


El Laberinto de las Aceitunas by Eduardo Mendoza

Given that I am offcially on vacation this week, I've decided to pay a quick visit to a relatively unknown territory (well, at least for me) of literatura ligera.

Eduardo Mendoza is definitely a borderline kind of author on the subject, with some of his novels competing to run for la selección española de las obras maestras contemporáneas, including his most recent Riña de Gatos: Madrid 1936.

On the adventurist side, apart from his excellent Sin Noticias de Gurb alien comedy, his most prominent light series is a collection of several novels about an unnamed detective loco. While for the year or so I was contemplating whether to read installment #2, first published in 1982, about the olives labyrinth (not present in the novel, by the way – as compared to the actual crypta in installment #1), Mendoza came up with his fourth one last year.

I guess the most common feature of the two novels in the series I've had so far – while they are absolute fun to read, it seems Mendoza never knows how to finish them properly, and in the last 20% of the book (as kindle kindly and precisely indicates) things take the most strange turns and typically end nowhere. But I guess that matters un pimiento – in Mendoza's easy fiction, the process of reading (ie partcipating) is much more than the result itself. Truly Olympic spirit, huh. Shall I start the third one now, about el tocador de señoras? Hm.


Dime Quién Soy by Julia Navarro

It's been awhile since I gave up reading a book that I started reading. But this one clearly deserves it.

Bought into a nice sepia filtered old Red Square photo on the cover and a few positive reviews on several blogs and websites – and, poor me, decided to start reading this eleven hundred page monster.

My patience ran out around page 400, at the end of the Moscow bit. While overall I am quite positive on reading historic fiction, like, say some of Mendoza's novels, this one is cheap holiday junk. Reading the Moscow piece, any Russian can't help but notice that this lady has not been to Moscow (or maybe once on a packaged tour), has no clue about minor details that make crap fiction into an intriguing historic read. Clearly, she hasn't heard how much effort Mr. Joyce put into describing a single day.

Uff, while forcing with myself into reading this further, I ended up giving up on reading entirely and back into watching movies, flipping through magazines, procrastinating on facebook, anything, but this junk.

1/5. Or less.

Gone. Moving into something entirely different. Trainspotting prequel is out, Skagboys. Keeping my fingers crossed for the good old grandpa Irvine.

Los Inocentes by Gipi

Los Inocentes, a twenty-or-so page-long comic book by Gipi conveniently translated from Italian into Spanish, is a short flashback by a young guy into his own and his friends' wasted youth in the street. How mean hateful people, especially those with power, can provoke children. How children retaliate.

In a sense, the story reminds me of Mathieu Kassovitz's perennial La Haine – or, for those who's seen it, El Bola by Achero Mañas – or, maybe in a more proper sense, Susanne Bier's breathtaking Hævnen.

The art, I'd say, is less prominent visually than that of Exterior Noche, recently read as well, but still quite unique for comic books – as too few are done in paint and not in pencil these days.


Exterior Noche by Gipi

Made a quick revision of my comic book shelf (actually, shelves) just to realize I have 3 unread books by Gipi, an Italian author, translated into Spanish. Bought them in FNAC in Madrid maybe 5-6 years ago – and hasn't opened so far.

Started with Exterior Noche, a collection of six unrelated short stories – and boy, do they look awesome. Probably one of the most original and artsy comic books I have ever seen.

Stories are dark, delinquent related experiences, pure life without a long well-developed plot – rather, to find a proper comparison, they are pieces of raw flesh cut out and left there bleeding.

The multilayered style is also one of a kind. Beautiful dark blue background drawn in oil, with further pencil-like ugly faces added on top – Gipi himself says that he made sure no-one (especially women) looked anywhere close to sexy or handsome in his work.

I have Apuntes para una Historia de Guerra and Los Inocentes to read further – and now I definitely will.


El Misterio de la Cripta Embrujada by Eduardo Mendoza

Don’t really know what pushed me into reading Mendoza’s first mad detective comedy novel, written back in 1977 – size, I guess, quite attractive size of bare 200 paginitas “de bolsillo” – and the fact I’ve always liked Mendoza’s style.

In a nutshell, a strange tale about a delusive Barcelona crook confined in a mental institution who gets out on a forced mission to solve a mystery that kept me thinking “why did they pick him?”, composed as a light and funny story. The ending was, eh, mediocre at best – but hey, Mendoza has never been after the result – he is after process.

True as it may be, the book is not on par with Mendoza’s locally (not sure about internationally) acclaimed La Ciudad de Prodigios, Una Comedia Ligera and his latest Premio Planeta winner Riña de Gatos. Madrid 1936 – all of which are perfect period pieces – I hope I will find time to re-read the first two again in the future (for those who don’t know Spanish, no doubt translations are available) – nevertheless, La Cripta is a fast pageturner that eased my overworked mind during three or so evenings, and I now have a serious backlog of a dozen magazines I now subscribe to.

Realized it has two sequels – El Laberinto de las Aceitunas and La Aventura del Tocador de Señoras – should I read them as well? Uh-huh, quizás.