Arquivo do mês: março 2008

WHERE I’M CALLING FROM: Where Chekhov is calling from

The readers of Raymond Carver’s selected stories “Where I’m Calling From” is likely to spend 500 pages wondering is this writer is the American Chekhov of suburbia, and is never sure. Until the reader reaches the very last story. The first word in “Errand” is “Chekhov”, and as we progress in the reading we can notice that this narrative is about the Russian writer. Then it is time all doubts are dissipated and we can only conclude that Carver’s work is a sort of homage to or influence by Chekhov.

where-im-calling-from.jpgEither case, it is a good thing, since that Russian writer is one of the biggest masters of short stories. But, even being under Chekhov’s spell, Carver is still a writer of his own. Actually one of the best short story writers of the XX century. Too bad he died so young, one can only imagine what he would have produced more.

In this book of selected stories, the reader can have a vast tableau of Carver’s themes, style, approach, and sensibility. There are 30 texts that were previously published, and seven new stories. In these 30-plus tales, the writer is able to dissect with beauty and witty the American psyche — or yet, soul.

It is not difficult to be seduced by his dry style in which he doesn’t try to make beautiful sentences — but better yet, he reaches deeper depths in the soul of his characters. Carver is not after poetic moments, but he brings up some poetry from everyday life, from banal moments that are important only to those who are the main character of them.

His stories are usually short, and at the same time very efficient. The characters Carver portrays could be living in the same neighborhood, and at the same time they have very different lives. From his stories, we can realize that every life has its own beauty.

And these aspects are very close to those that made Chekhov one of the best, and we still read him, admire his work and consider his texts vanguard a hundred years later they were produced. Carver is very likely to have the same reward in the future. He does deserve it.

Originalmente publicado em www.Amazon.com em 14/04/06

THE VIEW FROM CASTLE ROCK – STORIES: More attention to the truth of life

alice-munro.jpgIn her latest collection of short stories, “The View From Castle Rock”, Canadian writer Alice Munro says in the introduction that these `pay more attention to the truth of life than fiction usually does’ – but she also adds that `not enough to swear on’. That is how her writing is in “The View From Castle Rock” – part fiction, part family history investigation.

Family and personal history have always been chief themes in her dozen collection of stories – but here these themes are more important since she is investigating her own family. As she points out, she has written in first person previously – but not like in these stories, in which she is closer to the subject than ever.

But above all, she defends that these `are stories’ – in opposition of a non-fiction book. In this sense, fiction is the vehicle for something bigger that even truth couldn’t reach. The first part of the book is called No Advantages and investigates the early history of her family beginning in Scotland in a place called Ettrick Valley. Her people – a part of her family called Laidlaw – move to America in hope of finding a better life.

the-view-from-castle-rock.jpgIn the stories of this section we come across characters such as Will O’Phaup, James Laidlaw and some unforgettable others. In this part we can also find one of the best stores of the collection – the one that gives the title to the book.

The second part, Home, we move closer to the present and the writer herself is a character in all of them. As she says also in the foreword, she put herself in the center and wrote about that self, as searchingly as she could. But since these are stories, one is never sure of what is true and what is fiction. But since Munro writer with such assurance, this the point – who cares? – what is important here is how she is able to bring life out of these stories.

Alice Munro is certainly one of the best short stories writers of our time. Her Chekhovian realism is a pleasure as is her storytelling ability. When one finishes this book, or any other of hers, the reader has the feeling of knowing a little more about human beings and life.

Originalmente publicado em www.Amazon.com em 15/11/07

VERÃO EM BADEN-BADEN: Notas de inverno sobre impressões de verão

dostoievski.jpg“Era um trem diurno, mas estávamos no inverno”, começa o russo Leonid Tsípkin em seu romance “Verão em Baden-Baden”, “bem no auge do inverno.” Este é um romance dostoievskiano sobre Dostoiévski – como “O Mestre” é sobre Henry James, “As Horas”, sobre Virginia Woolf e em especial “O Mestre de Petesburgo”, também sobre Dostoiévski, só para ficar com alguns dos mais recentes.

 

Tsípkin era um médico infectologista apaixonado por literatura, que nunca viu essa sua pequena obra-prima publicada, originalmente lançada num semanário para imigrantes russos nos Estados Unidos – poucos dias antes da morte do autor, em 1982.

 

Em “Verão em Baden-Baden”, Tsípkin se coloca como autor e personagem – ao lado de Dostoiévski personagem. É um escritor em busca de outro e, nesse processo, emerge como uma outra pessoa. Na introdução da edição brasileira, Susan Sontag diz que “[nada] é inventado. Tudo é inventado. A ação que serve de moldura é a viagem do narrador rumo aos locais onde se passa a vida de Dostoiévski e seus romances (como logo compreendemos) rumo ao livro que temos nas mãos. ‘Verão em Baden-Baden’ pertence a um raro e sofisticadamente ambicioso gênero de romance: ao recontar a vida real de uma pessoa de talento de uma outra época, ele entrelaça essa história com uma história do presente, das árduas reflexões do romancista em seu esforço de penetrar mais fundo na vida interior de uma personalidade cujo destino era tornar-se não só histórica mas monumental”.

 

verao-baden-baden.jpgNessa recriação/descoberta dessa personagem real e monumental, Tsípkin se encontra como escritor – mais talvez do que como ser humano. Seu estilo – embora ecoe temas, motivos e sons de Dostoiévski – é próprio. Ele escreve em parágrafos longos, que crescem num jorro contínuo. Isso faz lembrar Saramago – mas é praticamente impossível que houvesse essa influência. Há também descrições fortemente visuais, imagens oníricas e realistas.

 

Algumas passagens conhecidas da vida de Dostoiévski são recriadas com força dramática. Uma das melhores passagens – que acontece duas vezes – é quando o autor de “Recordação da Casa dos Mortos” sobe numa cadeira para poder observar melhor uma pintura em dois museus. O motivo pode ser o mesmo – mas nas duas vezes que a cena acontece são para efeitos dramáticos diferentes. Outro é uma querela entre Dostoiévski e Turguêniev, autor de “Pais e Filhos”. A cena é sensacional, à medida que acontece num crescendo até chegar em seu clímax. Já Dostoiévski no leito de morte, no quarto final do romance, é tocante ao mesmo tempo em que Tsípkin explora o seu aguçado senso de criação visual.

 

“Verão em Baden-Baden” explora as possibilidades da arte como forma de redenção – de Dostoiévski, de Tsípkin, do leitor –, a arte como forma de expressão primária, a arte que reflete acontecimentos da vida, e os transforma. Há dois contrastes fortes: o verão de Dostoiévski e o inverno de Tsípkin. Dois pólos complementares, duas forças que encontram um equilíbrio.

THE MASTER OF PETESBURG: Following the dance of the pen

master-of-petesburg.jpgIn J. M. Coetzee’s “The Master of Petersburg” when the main character is asked what kind of books he writes, he doesn’t know what to respond. Page later, thinking about it he concludes he could have said he `write[s] perversions of the truth. [He chooses] the crooked road and take[s] the children into dark places. [He] follow[s] the dance of the pen’.

In novel “The Master of Petersburg” South African writer Coetzee could state that of book he writes is the same kind of his character’s — who, by the way, happens to be Russian master Fyodor Dostoevsky. Once the contemporary writer picks the nineteen-century author as his main character and draws the narrative following a period of his life, the novel develops a dialogue between past and present.

Coetzee is one of the best and boldest writers alive and working. He is at the prime of his career and had proven it for over ten years, producing relevant books dealing with current issues — or past issues that resonates in the present. “The Master of Petersburg” is not different. Although the story is set in 1869, the narrative echoes in the present once it portrays a man in quest of the truth. This truth is linked to social problems of dissatisfaction and will of revolution.

Part a thriller, part a mediation on life and arts, this book asks the reader to fully give himself to the narrative. The characters are very vivid and while very local, they reach universal dimensions. Dostoevsky’s books bridges past and present in the narrative. The allusions are very subtle and the more you know about the Russian writer, the more rewarding will be the experience of reading this book.

When it comes to contemporary writers, Coetzee is one of the very likely to have a timeless body of work — just like Dostoevsky and other masters. There is no doubt that in two-hundred year time people will still be reading the South African author just like we read the Russians today.

Originalmente publicado em www.Amazon.com em 21/05/06

HOUSE OF THE DEAD: Days of fear and hope

Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s “The House of the Dead” is one of the most powerful narratives about life in prison. A quasi-autobiographical work, the writer used the days he spent in Siberia prison to create powerful moments of sadness, fear and hope. Not many were able to be released from there, but he was one of them, and with this work he reminds everyone what it is about to be a political prisoner.

the-house-of-the-dead.jpg“The House of the Dead” may not be one of best works from this Russian writer, who produced masterpieces such as “Crime an Punishment” and “The Brothers Karamazov”, but still it is a vivid account of hard times. Many scenes are unforgettable, and resonate to the condition that many people live today around the world – think of the soup that the prisoners have in the first part of the book, for instance.

Dostoyevsky manages to create a living portray of many people who are forced to share the same place at the same time, however much they can’t stand each other. He is able to bring to life both human beings and animals. His description of his meeting with a dog can bring tears to the eyes of the most tough reader.

David McDuff’s translation is superb, and so is Penguin Classics edition. The book is complemented by notes on the text and a excellent introduction. However, as happens to many books in this collection, it is advisable to read the introduction after reading the novel, because it may have spoilers.

Originalmente publicado em www.Amazon.com em 18/05/06

ADA OR ARDOR: Life is somewhere else

ada-or-ardor.jpg“Lolita” is Vladmir Nabokov’s most famous book – but those who are able to read his “Ada or Ardor” that may not be his best. It is actually hard to pick one of them. Both novels are superbly written and unforgettable for different reasons. It seems to most readers that “Lolita” is easier to read, the plot is easier to follow and so is time and place. “Ada or Ardor” requires more attention, more ability to untie our bounds to reality and exploit an unknown world, as if life is not here, but in another place.

This place has a name, it is called Antiterra, and this is where narrative is set. `Where it is’ is not the proper question – but reader should wonder what it is. And it requires quite a complex answer, that may take the whole book. Therefore, one should stop wondering and dive beneath the surface of the narrative, and get acquired with its characters. “Ada or Ardor” starts with an interesting quotation that could be from Tolstoy’s “Anna Kariênina”, but it is not. From the on, the narrator – and the reader, as consequence – starts to investigates the effects of memory and passion in the life of the characters – mostly Van, the main one, who falls in love with Ada, his cousin.

With “Ada or Ardor”, Nabokov is dealing with the terrain where Proust is the king: memory. But in his version of a character trying to regain the lost time, Nabokov is also a master of language, narrative and effect. This novel is one of the most complex that readers can find in English – or any language, for that matter. There is a plot to follow, but it is the least important qualities when it comes to this narrative. The writer is more concerned with bringing his characters memories to life. And so he does with charm, intelligence and beauty.

Nabokov relation to the language is very peculiar. He has the ability to transform poetry into prose without making it read like pretentious. As a matter of fact, his superb language becomes vital to the narrative that unfolds slowly, on its own speed. This is when readers have to forget what they’ve experience with another books and let Nabokov’s narrator conduce them to an unknown world, where earthy moral, judgments, feelings and relationships are not the law.

“Ada or Ardor” is more than a book, it is a complex and unforgettable reading experience. Its themes may cause strangeness, and the way Naobokov deals with them may disturb readers and leave others open-mouthed – but never indifferent. Since we are living an age where it is rare to book cause any commotion, “Ada or Ardor” stands as a unique piece that can cause the strongest feelings in its readers.

VERONICA: What ever happened to Veronica?

veronica1.jpg‘When I was young, my mother read me a story about a wicked little girl’. So begins Mary Gaitskill’s novel “Veronica”. It is impossible not to start wondering about who the narrator is telling about with such an introduction. Given the writer’s previous efforts – most notably her short story collection “Bad Behavior” – one may know what she is up to.

With “Veronica” Gaitskill deepens themes such as love and obsession that are dear in her ouvre. It is also a book about pairing up opposite motifs, such as beauty and ugliness, love and hate, friend and enemy. Her characters live in their own world with its own rules, where mere mortals can not be accepted. This is clear throughout this novel, when two women became friends, in a way that is strange to the rest of society.

The whole narrative is built around doubles. Veronica and Alison, who meet in New York in the 80’s. The decade is the perfect background for a narrative in which camp is the new black. The two women love-hate relationship may recall “What ever happened to Baby Jane?”. But the writer doesn’t forget to bring the biggest malady that spread by that time. One of the women is found with AIDS and that may change their relationship forever.

As with her previous books, Gaitskill is not a writer for everyone. Her love and compassion for her characters sometimes are touching, and at other times scary. However much she cares about them, she doesn’t help them whenever they are in trouble. That is one of the best qualities of her books – the ability of making living people out of paper and ink.

Originalmente publicado em www.Amazon.com em 28/12/06