Sunday, February 21, 2010

6. El Caso de las Chuches Misteriosos

I promised to read a Spanish book outside of class, so I did! Okay, it's a book for second-graders, but you know what? It was great for my Spanish reading level. I wouldn't have picked it up, but my "intercambio" (language exchange) partner got it for me from the library.

I'm glad I read it, because it made me realize I need to practice reading Spanish like I practiced reading English. I can't start with the great literature overnight. I may be an adult, but my Spanish level is probably below that of a Spanish-speaking six-year-old. So, I must read accordingly, however uninteresting, I could feel my Spanish reading skills improving. This was about a little girl who decides to leave sweets in her neighbors' mailboxes anonymously and when someone else starts leaving anonymous poems, she investigates.

You may see more of these, please don't laugh! I don't know if I should really count them or not, but this was the first one and I was proud!

7. Lights of Bohemia by Ramon Maria del Valle-Inclan

We read this play, in English translation, for my Spanish Literature course. It was printed side by side with a Spanish translation, so whenever the English got too colloquial, I looked over to the other side to get an idea of what was really going on.

These fifteen scenes occur over the course of a night and morning and the last three scenes over the next couple days. Maximo Estrella (Estrella meaning star, he is nicknamed Mal-Estrella, or in the English translation, Ill-Starred Max), is a bohemian Modernist poet (these terms get thrown around a lot) turned old, blind, and poor. His "friend" Don Latino constantly praises him, all the while taking him out to bars and bleeding him of any money he has left or could hope to gain. Some proletariat protests occur while they are out, Max gets involved and briefly jailed. Eventually, Don Latino takes Max home only to leave him to die in the cold on the doorstep of his home. Obviously, this is supposed to be a nuanced reflection on the bohemian life, it just feels highbrow and cold. It's hard not to sympathize with Max, on the other hand, he seems to bring trouble on himself.

The play feels stereotypically Spanish; pessimistic and devil-may-care. I didn't much enjoy it, but as a representative piece of Spanish Modernism and the period leading to the Spanish Civil War, I'm trying to get interested. I'll see what my teacher says next time we have class.

8. Tongue by Kyung Ran Jo

A novel in translation, this time from Korean, I expected to like more than I did. The protagonist is a cook whose boyfriend has left her, who works through her depression, finding solace in her cooking, and culminates in a glorious act of revenge. It sounded fascinating, but unfortunately there's not more to it than that book jacket description.

I enjoyed the discussion of food, but the protagonist-narrator was way too preachy and forceful with the food/love/sex metaphors. Really, you can be more subtle with that. We get it. It was too sparse for my taste, I guess. It could also always be the translation, partly at least. There were delicious detailed hints and then no rounding out of characters, not enough explaining of relationships. I understood what happened in the end, but man was it boring and anticlimactic the way it was written. I hate to say it, but in the hands of say, Nabokov, this could have been a really good novel. In Kyung Ran Jo's hands, it has a lot of information about food and it's a great revenge fantasy, but it's just kind of...flat.

No comments: