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Reading Life: 11th May 2018

A photograph of a copy of Faces In The Crowd against the backdrop of Spain

You may have seen on Twitter that I was away over the last week. For the first time I took only my Kobo and one very thin book, Valeria Luiselli’s Faces In The Crowd, which I found on a library shelf, the last date it had been borrowed suggesting to me I’d better take it out soon. I’ve learned a lot about library use the past few months.

Luiselli isn’t an author who has been on my list, but I recognised her name from a panel at Hay two years ago and knew that if she was there along with other well-known authors, her books were likely worth picking up. Faces In The Crowd, translated from the Spanish by Christina MacSweeney (Luiselli is Mexican) is about a woman who works as a translator, going around her city’s libraries to find more Latin American authors to add to her small company’s list. It’s a clever book-in-a-book, the novel she’s writing interspersed with dialogue and questions from, for example, her husband – on one page there is a paragraph about how the character shares a bed with another woman, and the couple of sentences that follow after a pause are composed of her husband asking her if it’s true she’s slept with women. It’s sometimes difficult to tell when or where any one vignette is set and whether it’s fiction within the fiction or simply the first level of it, as it were, but that becomes part of the charm and is undoubtedly a part of the point of it all.

I didn’t consciously borrow this book thinking I’d take it to Spain, but for the language it ended up being a good choice. As it turned out, my plans to read outside early each morning weren’t realised – the weather wasn’t very good – so I’ve still a fair amount of the book to read.

In other bookish news, I recently received Claire Fuller’s upcoming Bitter Orange and Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing; the latter is set in the 1700s and already at page nine I’m loving it. With my event now less than a week away I’ll be switching between these two books, leaving others aside until the end of next week; the Gyasi is set for review on Monday, and I plan to have a good chunk of Fuller’s book behind me by Thursday. The remaining portion of The Female Quixote will have to wait a little longer.

At some point in the near future I’ll be reading Patrick Gale’s A Place Called Winter. I’ve wanted to read it for a while and found a library copy to browse through. The opening pages took me straight back to the fantastic literary atmosphere Anna Hope created in Wake; I want to go back to that particular combination of writing and setting.

What was the last translated book you read?


Tracy Terry

May 11, 2018, 3:00 pm

Not a fan of that cover, I can understand why it is perhaps passed over by readers.

Sorry the weather wasn’t too good, that you didn’t get to read it as you had hoped to.


May 11, 2018, 9:32 pm

I hope you had a good time in Spain despite the weather. I was in Malta last week and the weather wasn’t great there either. A Place Called Winter is a wonderful book – I read it a few years ago and loved it!


May 12, 2018, 3:32 pm

Charlie, I sadly don’t read much translated works, but I think the last one I read was Sandokan, The Tigers of Mompracem by Emilio Salgari. A swashbuckling Italian classic, which I really enjoyed. And I have Sandokan, The Pirates of Malaysia on my TBR :-)

Jenny @ Reading the End

May 15, 2018, 1:22 am

I have been meaning to read Luiselli for ages and ages — I’ve heard just wonderful things about her. I’m particularly interested in Tell Me How It Ends, but my library hasn’t ordered it yet.

The last translated book I read was a Chinese children’s book called The City of Sand, which was an immensely fun adventure story. But overall I’ve been terrible about reading translated works this year — gotta do something about that!


May 24, 2018, 8:20 am

Tracy: It is quite… gloomy?… isn’t it. Definitely a style for her books across the board, at least in the UK. The good thing is the spine is a brighter orange so it’s easy to read and fairly prominent (at least that’s how I discovered it on the shelves!) I’m making up for the weather now, all these good evenings we’ve been having here!

Helen: It was one of the best weeks I’ve had :) If Malta’s not had good weather either, dare we consider the UK has had the luck so far? Glad to hear you liked A Place Called Winter; I haven’t been able to start it yet but that makes me want to read faster so I can get to it!

Jessica: I will have to look up Salgari; sounds excellent and he’s not an author I’d come across. So many classics that are worth reading!

Jenny: I can emphasise with the library issue, I looked up a well-reviewed novel and I’m considering ordering it in so it’s in the system! Tell Me How It Ends is the most well known, I think? I’d certainly recommend Faces in the Crowd to you. The City of Sand does sound fun; I’m actually more intrigued having had a quick look at the GoodReads reviews – if the translation’s the thing people have had trouble with, as sad as that is, it bodes well for the story itself. Or maybe I’ve just read too much of the dry Anna Karenina translations!



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