Tag Archives: spanish

The House of Paper by Carlos María Domínguez

Title: The House of Paper
Author: Carlos María Domínguez
Translated from the Spanish by: Nick Caistor
Illustrations by: Peter Sís
ISBN: 978-0151011476
Publisher: Harcourt
Genre: Novella, Literary Fiction
Pages: 103
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

Books about books have always fascinated me. There is something so relatable about them that it breaks my heart and also repairs it at the same time. They are love letters to books – almost love stories between books and collectors – I am sure most will agree with me when it comes to this. A reader and his or her books can never be apart.

“The House of Paper” is one of those books you just cannot get enough of. It is a short book – a novella of 106 pages or so but every page and every sentence and every word gleams in it. This one was a reread for me and I had actually forgotten how much I loved this book, till I read it now. The story is of a Cambridge professor who is killed by a car while reading Dickinson (or so it is assumed). A book is sent to her – a dirty, dusty copy of Conrad’s “The Shadow-Line”. A colleague of hers travels to Uruguay, determined to know the connection between these two people and instead ends up hearing a very strange story – of the man Carlos Brauer and how he has built himself a house from books by the sea. The rest is for you to read and find out – the why, what and the how that is.

“The House of Paper” is magic realism and a lot more than just that in my opinion. Books and reading form such a core of this read that you wished it were longer and that it would not end at all. The book raises questions of mad bibliophiles and the length they will go to for their love of books. At the same time, it doesn’t make it too philosophical or dreary. This book is perfect to the ones obsessed with the written word and for one I cannot stop recommending it. I must also add here that the translation by Nick Caistor is tongue in-cheek, lively and not to forget the beautiful illustrations by Peter Sís. My copy by the way is from The New York Public Library and I was delighted that it came to me in India from there. Only booklovers will understand this. Also this book. So read it. Please.

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Love in Small Letters by Francesc Miralles

Love in Small Letters by Francesc Miralles Title: Love in Small Letters
Author: Francesc Miralles
Publisher: Bloomsbury
ISBN: 9781846883354
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 281
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

“Love in Small Letters” by Francesc Miralles was the second translated book I read this year and it came to me just by sheer chance, as most of the incidents take place – by chance. This book will make you believe in love and everyday magic. It will make you a hopeful person if you are not and a more hopeful person if you are. The book spoke to me like all the other books I have loved immensely. I picked it up because it had been lying around for a week and I really wanted to read it, so there you have it: A book that made me smile, think and also cry at the end.

“Love in Small Letters” is about an ordinary man, named Samuel. It is about a New Year’s Day and how it changes everything for Samuel and the life that he has known is about to go elsewhere, in another direction – in a more serendipitous direction. It all begins with a cat that came unannounced on his doorstep and he fed it some milk; a neighbour who he has never met makes an appearance and he starts caring about him, another stranger at a bar with a manuscript under his arm at all times and how he gets to know and help him, and a girl he loved when he was a child and when he sees her unexpectedly at a traffic signal.

All of the action takes place in a span of week. Everything is surreal and sometimes it is good for us to know as humans to let it leave it to faith or a higher power. More than anything else, the story is set in Barcelona, which gives it its own charm.

Miralles’s writing is simple and profound. It does not get preachy at any point. He makes it too easy and so emotional at the same time, without it being too sentimental and boring. The translation by Julie Wark is as simple and enriching. The essence of the book is in its title which comes from this passage in the book, and happens to be my favourite:

“Love in small letters?”

“It’s when some small act of kindness sets off a chain of events that comes around again in the form of multiplied love. Then, even if you want to return to where you started, it’s too late, because this love in small letters has wiped away all traces of the path back to where you were before.”

This is the essence of this wondrous book. Maybe no one has heard of it. Maybe very few people will. But all I can say is that you have to read this book to feel good about the world and life, about love and friendship, about chances in life and sometimes things we do because they must be done. “Love in Small Letters” is a book that will make you sing. It is a book that will make you believe in the moon, the stars and everything beyond our imagination. It is also a book that will make you see things and people, differently. Read it.

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Book Review: This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz

Title: This Is How You Lose Her
Author: Junot Diaz
Publisher: Faber and Faber
ISBN: 978-0-571-29419-0
Genre: Short Stories, Literary Fiction
Pages: 213
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

The minute I heard that Junot Diaz was coming out with a new book, I could not stop myself from dreaming about the time when I would read it, back to back. That is exactly what I did with his latest book, a collection of short-stories, more like a fragmented novel more like it – “This Is How You Lose Her”. The title of the book was enough to get me going. Poignant and at the same time real. A lot like life.

Junot Diaz’s characters (if you have read him earlier, you would know) are raw, passionate and also might seem larger than life sometimes, but that’s also because of where their roots lie – The Dominican Republic. His earlier books, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and a collection of inter-linked stories, Drown were both superb and this one is no less.

“This Is How You Lose Her”, is about Yunior, a Dominican kid who was first introduced in “Drown” and then ended up being the narrator of, “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao”. He makes a full-fledged debut so to say with this collection. The book’s stories center on Yunior’s doomed relationships with various women. It is almost as though he has a death-wish. He cannot be in a relationship for long, for reasons that the reader discovers along the way.

The book opens with the story, “The Sun, The Moon, The Stars”, where Yunior tries so hard to hang on to his one of many relationships. He cheats on his girlfriend (not once) and wants to win her trust back. That is the core of this story. It first made an appearance in 1999 in The New Yorker and by far is one of the best stories in this collection for me (after “The Cheater’s Guide to Love”).

Yunior’s interactions with women but obviously are most note-worthy in the book. However, it is the secondary characters as well that matter the most. For instance, his brother Rafa, who shapes Yunior’s views of women to a very large extent and who is dying of cancer. The story, “The Pura Principle” linked to this one is sheer genius. Yunior’s absent father and his philandering ways are also hinted at, throughout the book.

The one story that isn’t related to Yunior is titled, “Otravida, Otravez” – about a woman who is a laundry nurse at a hospital, washes her lover’s clothes and constantly thinks about his wife and her letters to him.

The title comes from the shortest story in the book, “Alma” and how Yunior manages to lose her. The last story in the book that ties all ends and we see an adult Yunior, looking back on his mistakes is aptly and most ironically titled, “The Cheater’s Guide to Love”.

The writing is stupendous. Every word is in its place and cannot be replaced. There will be minor hiccups for the first-time reader to get used to the Spanish references, but that’s a large part of Diaz’s ethnicity which he but obviously brings through his books.

The characters are intense. There is no other way I guess to portray them when you are dealing with love and the matters of the heart. I would most certainly recommend this collection to everyone. Even to those who haven’t read his books earlier. Yunior as a character will be loved by you and hated at the same time, and if you have ever been in love, you will empathize deeply at his affairs and his loves. An outstanding read of the year.

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