DF Book Meme

Ernesto passed these questions on to me today. Thanks, Ernesto, for your kind words.

1. Total number of books I’ve owned

Somewhere in the indeterminate thousands, especially when I take into consideration my obsession with comic books as a child. That's when I first learned to love books, reading the likes of Sgt. Rock, G.I. Combat, Jonah Hex, Archie and Dennis the Menace in the US and Tamakún: El Vengador Errante and Kalimán in Venezuela. Then came my discovery of Tin Tin and Asterix & Obelix.

2. Last book I bought

Goethe, tr. Elizabeth Mayer and Louise Bogan, The Sorrows of Young Werther.

I'm teaching this book next fall and had only read it before in a Spanish version. I've already noticed moments in the English version that seem flat to me. And W.H. Auden's Foreword at times borders on being ludicrous. For instance, when he writes: "To us [in the 20th century] it reads not as a tragic love story, but as a masterly and devastating portrait of a complete egoist, a spoiled brat, incapable of love because he cares for nobody and nothing but himself and having his way at whatever cost to others." (Auden needs to check himself.)

I think the Spanish version by Carmen Bravo-Villasante is magnificent. (Or does she only introduce it? The edition I read isin't clear on this.) I read it over several sleepless nights and kept wondering how I could have waited so many years to read it. A few days before I picked it up, I had noticed a woman on a bus in Caracas reading it in an edition published by Los Libros de El Nacional. Like many of the books I love, this one arrived as if by magic.

3. Last book I read

Cristina Rivera-Garza, La cresta de Ilión.

I read this over several months, with various interruptions from other books. As with the other book of hers I've read, Nadie me verá llorar, I found myself rereading certain sections as I moved through its pages. She concludes this novel with a brief reference to The Odyssey which made me reconsider my whole interpretation of the book. She writes scenes that flow at a dream's (or a nightmare's) strange pace. I'm on the lookout for more of her great work.

4. Five books that mean a lot to me

Aijaz Ahmad, In Theory: Classes, Nations, Literatures.

I read this at BU for a seminar on Postcolonial literature. Ahmad's history of literary theory is exciting and I found plenty of ideas I could relate to, particularly in regards to how the West reads the so-called Third World. His chapter in response to Fredric Jameson is a classic.

Roque Dalton, Pobrecito poeta que era yo.

As I've said here before, this is one of the hidden masterpieces of the Latin American Boom. UCA Editores in San Salvador recently published a new edition of the book so it is available. Dalton's book is obviously responding to Rayuela, among other texts. What I find so wonderful about this novel is Dalton's hilarious sense of the absurdity and humor of human existence. I also admire how irreverent Dalton is towards any type of political dogmatism.

Teresa de la Parra, Ifigenia. Diario de una señorita que escribió porque se fastidiaba.

The passage when the narrator arrives to the port of La Guaira from Europe by boat reminds me of my own arrival there from NYC (via freight ship) in 1976. At first, the novel seems to be narrated by a frivolous young caraqueña. What ensues, however, is a story of intellectual freedom versus societal restrictions. So much of the novel captures the difficult choices a writer must face in a world ruled by commerce.

Wilson Harris, Jonestown.

This "Dream-Book" is narrated by the ghost of Francisco Bone, who was killed during the infamous Jonestown massacre in Guyana. Harris structures the novel on a juxtaposition between postmodern theoretical inquiry and Native American mythologies. This is a book that defies easy classification, since it can be read as an epic poem, a novel, critical theory and as a meta-testimonial.

Juan Sánchez Peláez, Aire sobre el aire.

In 14 beautiful poems, Sánchez Peláez manages to evoke an entire lifetime of poetic inquiry. Thanks to this book I encountered the poetry of César Moro and the fiction of Álvaro Mutis. The poems travel from Liverpool to Lima to Caracas and they reflect a devotion to poetry as a form of philosophy. All while remaining faithful to song.

5. Which five bloggers am I passing this to?

I pass this meme onto fellow book lovers: Claudia, Mark, Eileen, Jacinta & Sergio.

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