Thursday, 9 July 2009

Now up to date, still in Portugal

Thought it was time for an update on my journeys... I am about 1/3 through the Portuguese leg of my journey ("What Can I Do When Everything Is On Fire?" by Antonio Lobo Antunes) which - whilst challenging - is a fascinating read. As I mentioned before, it is a stream-of-consciousness novel (and so I have had a few flashbacks to traumatic times having to plough through Joyce's 'Ulysses' as an English degree student!) but this really is a novel which stands on its own in this genre.

For me, the main positive is that Antunes does not mollycoddle the reader - he writes his scenarios and makes us work to interpret them (although he does provide a - very useful - dramatis personae at the start of the book to document the many major and minor characters who appear during the novel).

For me, reading the stream of consciousness (SOC) form is almost like getting used to an unfamiliar dialiect...we are not used to reading this type of wording; but the same can be said of Shakespeare's mannered English, or Irvine Welsh's extreme Scottish dialect... after a while of immersing yourself in it, you get used to it. In fact, I suspect I think it will take me a while to get used to 'conventional literature' after reading this work (and make no mistake - my next book on my travels will be a literary holiday after this*!).

My one gripe? Well, the SOC format is - without doubt - highly effective in allowing the author to take us into the minds and innermost workings of his protagonists. However, in terms of my world journey I feel that this is, in a major way, at the expense of appreciating the wider surroundings and context in which these characters operate. I wanted a candid view of Lisbon from this work and - whilst the blurb promised an insight into the denizens and environs of Lisbon city's underworld - to be honest this playing out of human tragedy could be happening anywhere in any major city in the world. So, whilst a heartening deomnstration that Portuguese literature is alive and kicking, this is not - for me - an insight into contemporary Portuguese society... (at least so far: to be fair I have 2/3 of the book to go so may well reassess my views!)

More updates on this later.. meantime can I just:

a) re-state my plea for a work to represent San Marino..despite appealing to numerous libraries and government departments in San Marino there appears to be no literature to represent this state on my travels. Shame.
b) Also, I wish to thank Magor Bookshop in Macedonia - I have a series of short stories by author Igor Isakovski (Sandglass) lined up for my Macedonian leg but would like a published work for my bookshelf also. I have found a work of English translated short stories from Macedonia - including Igor's work - entitled "Change To The System". The editor, Richard Gaughran, kindly replied that he no longer had a copy - however I have contacted the Magor Bookshop in Skopje who, though out of stock, have offered to look for a spare copy for me! I will keep you posted on progress.

Well, that's me for now - any comments, suggestions, feedback more than welcome as ever!

* my next book is "Monaco Cool" by Robert Westgate

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