Sunday, December 21, 2014

Best Books I Read in 2014

The following is a compilation of the books I read and liked best in 2014.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (♦♦♦♦):  is a splendid example of a gothic novel; the sense of doom, of supernatural forces governing events permeates this timeless classic.

The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B. by Sandra Gulland (♦♦♦♦): the title couldn’t have been different; it pays homage not to a life but to the journey of a woman of modest beginnings who became extraordinary during the times and through suffering she endured…Since the book more or less started with a prophecy I was desperate to see it play out, so much so that when the book became serious […] I felt tempted to leave it aside. It was a history lesson let me tell you, and not the pretty kind. It was ugly and messy and plain terrifying.

Hannah’s Dream by Diane Hammond (♦♦♦♦½): is a book about an elephant and its relationship with its zoo keeper, but it’s also a story about love, loyalty, loss, growing old and infirm, being at odds with God and the reconciliation with Him once the main characters recognized their prayers had been answered.

The Misremembered Man by Christina McKenna (♦♦♦♦½): is a poignant story, bittersweet and tragic as only real life can be. You will laugh out loud and most certainly you will cry, but above all, the story and characters will haunt you.

The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro (♦♦♦♦♦): is a rich, intricate tapestry where snippets of the recent past (three years ago), long past (last years of the nineteenth century) and the present intermingle to make a fascinating detective story come to life. The detective story is anything but conventional, because it’s about what “an unassuming painter”--with knowledge, the right skill set, and a unique perspective—sees when all the experts in the field disagree.

The Key to Rebecca by Ken Follett (♦♦♦♦): it opens up sort of dream-like: a spy walking through the desert after losing his last camel. With several pounds of baggage on him and hardly any water, he passes out just before he “believes” he has arrived at the oasis he’s been looking for… It’s not exactly starting a novel with a bang, but just before the first chapter is over, said spy is forced to kill a British officer and the chase starts…It is a very entertaining spy thriller with enough historical background to teach a little about WWII along the way.

The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman (♦♦♦♦): is compelling, a tour-de-force writing; it grabs you and doesn't let go until the end. It’s a marvelous rendition of a world in extinction thanks to the ubiquitous nature of the internet… The Imperfectionists takes an unflinching look at relationships, personal and in the workforce. The result is neither optimistic nor pretty but real and raw nonetheless.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan (♦♦♦♦½): covers many topics--such as the power of friendship and how people in relationships change for better or worse-- but the love for books and the amazing reach of what science and technology can accomplish… those themes recur and run deep within the fibers of this unique and sparkly story…By the way, the book cover glows in the dark, if that is not cool I don’t know what is!

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley (♦♦♦♦): is historical fiction at its best, drawing from a relatively unknown (at least for me) chapter of Scottish history. Though it’s at its core a love story defying death or time, it’s also a narration about political maneuvering and intrigue.

Rimas (Rhymes) by Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer (♦♦♦♦♦): encompasses a variety of topics ranging from love in all its manifestations, disillusionment, and religious and spiritual epiphanies…This Kindle collection is marred by misspellings but they don't manage to decrease the impact of Bécquer's amazing work.

La Ciudad de las Bestias (City of the Beasts) by Isabel Allende (♦♦♦♦): is a passionate narrative for young adults, in which reality and fiction, myth and fantasy coexist. The intricate and little known Amazonian jungle and the legendary city of El Dorado are the lush scenarios in which this magnificent and mysterious story unfolds.

Hunting Eichmann: How a Band of Survivors and a Young Spy Agency Chased Down theWorld's Most Notorious Nazi by Neal Bascomb (♦♦♦♦): reads like something urgent, a message that can neither be ignored nor forgotten. It reads like a gripping spy novel, and it's unclear to me whether that is a blessing or a curse, because the danger of missing the lesson entirely, however unlikely that may be, could prove costly. Furthermore, Hunting Eichmann is a stirring account of the main players’ paths to that time in history—Eichmann’s, the capture team’s, as well as the witnesses’.

The Heist by Daniel Silva (♦♦♦♦): though convoluted, The Heist is another great entry in the Gabriel Allon saga, a satisfying ride with lots of learning on the side. Silva remarks that stolen art serves as underground currency for all sorts of criminal transactions and that the more famous the art piece, the better the odds are of finding it.

Mariana by Susanna Kearsley (♦♦♦♦): is utterly absorbing: I was a captive by page 20. The plot is atmospheric, otherworldly, with lavish narrative and fascinating characters. I enjoyed both the modern day story as well as the 17th century one, but I liked Mariana’s subplot the best; there was more drama, romance, and more chemistry in Mariana’s life than in Julia’s.

Exiles by Ron Hansen (♦♦♦♦): I have read sad (and inspiring) books in my day, but Exiles by Ron Hansen is in contention to take the cake in both categories. I felt moved by the life of Gerard Manley Hopkins, his convictions, the desertion of friends and family when he abandoned the comfort of his faith for a stranger (and poorly perceived) one, desertion that felt to him like betrayal because in the most important moments of his life the people closest to him weren’t present. That hurts! He remained, as the nuns, an exile until the end.

The Night Is Forever by Heather Graham (♦♦♦♦): I suspected the identity of the killer from early on but there was enough misdirection to confuse me for a while, so no damage done. The plot was intricate and the history involving the Battle of Nashville and other battles from the Civil War on Tennessee soil were fascinating and absorbing. It was a great touch on Graham’s part to include a ghost hero and the history surrounding him. The other two ghosts were interesting as well, though they didn’t have much to contribute to the investigation and I found that so frustrating.

Brunelleschi's Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture by Ross King (♦♦♦♦): provides a fascinating portrayal of the times and the professional and personal life of Brunelleschi. The result is a vivid, absorbing tale of intrigue and genius, of turbulent times and the men who shaped them.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee (♦♦♦♦♦): Wow! That’s what I said when I finished it. I went through so many emotions while reading this book: I laughed a great deal in the beginning; I cried with the death of Mrs. Dubose and Jem’s reaction to it, I was on the edge-of-my-seat during the trial, and when the book ended I felt a hole in my heart, but also the knowledge of having been through a unique experience.

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant (♦♦♦♦½): The story of Dinah reinvented by Diamant is one of great sorrow, laced with amazing interludes of female bonding, devotion and deep love. From The Red Tent emerges the image of loving, strong, resilient women who, in spite of living in a world governed by men, shape their lives and those whom they share them with.

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult (♦♦♦♦): although it has a slow development, I was so invested in the story that I wanted to finish fast to know how it ended, and what an ending it is! It reminded me of at least two well known movies that I’d rather not mention for fear of spoiling it. Suffice it to say that I didn’t see that coming in a million years, a testament of powerful storytelling.

La Casa de los Espíritus (House of Spirits) by Isabel Allende (♦♦♦♦♦): is an enthralling narrative in which oracles and the paranormal coexist with the reality of daily life and the hallucinating political landscape that takes shape between the pages. The story is timeless because it isn't constrained by dates, nor it is constrained to a specific country though no doubt Allende is alluding convulse political changes that Chile underwent in modern times.

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman (♦♦♦♦♦): By reading it I've had time to think what makes a family what it is, and also what defines parenthood: biology or rearing a child with love... Intense and heartbreaking, The Light Between Oceans is a profound reflection on the meaning of motherhood, and the bond between a mother and her child.

Stay With Me by Alison Gaylin (♦♦♦♦): Since it started I knew it was different from its predecessors in the series because it grabbed my attention faster and never let me go. It was easier to read and harder to put down. Also, the suspense was toned down and the thriller factor upped. The plot and subplots were also more realistic and current.

The Martian by Andy Weir (♦♦♦♦½): I was powerless since page 1, because really, who starts a book with such well earned profanity?!...More than a science- fiction book, The Martian is popular science at its very best. It is brilliant yet unpretentious. Who knew someone would have the key to surviving the unimaginable on Mars?

The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley (♦♦♦♦½): It has all the elements that made The Winter Sea a success: parallel stories in time, meaty and believable characters, great chemistry between the protagonists, and paranormal elements. It helped a lot that The Firebird was a continuation of sorts of The Winter Sea, and some of the most likable characters of the latter, reappear in the former to enhance the story and bring it full circle.

The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley (♦♦♦♦½)

Nicola Marter works at an art gallery in London that caters to Russian clients. A woman named Margaret visits the gallery to appraise a wooden bird that has been passed down in her family for three centuries. Margaret says that "The Firebird", as the artwork is known, was given to her ancestor by Empress Catherine the First, of Russia, but without any authentication document there's no way to be sure. When Nicola holds the bird in her hand, she gets a glimpse of the past and knows that the story is true, but how to prove it?

In the company of Rob McMorran, a gifted psychic and former flame, Nicola traces the steps that Anna (Jamieson) Moray, Margaret's ancestor, took from her childhood as a neighbor of Slains castle in Scotland, to her late teens as a member of a prominent family in St. Petersburg, and her occasional acquaintance with the Czarina.

The Firebird chronicles the life of Anna Mary, daughter of Sophia Paterson and John Moray whom we got to know in The Winter Sea. In that novel it was revealed that Sophia gave her daughter away as not to blow her cover as a young widow, and to preserve the lives of her daughter and John from the possible retaliation of Queen Anne's spies due to John's involvement in the insurrection to bring back King James Stewart VIII to power in 1708.

I really liked The Firebird. This is the fourth book by Mrs. Kearsley that I have read after The Winter Sea, The Rose Garden and Mariana. The Winter Sea was my favorite among the three, and now The Firebird has become my second favorite book by Susanna Kearsley, who has also become my second favorite author after Daniel Silva.

The Firebird has all the elements that made The Winter Sea a success: parallel stories in time, meaty and believable characters, great chemistry between the protagonists, and paranormal elements. It helped a lot that The Firebird was a continuation of sorts of The Winter Sea, and some of the most likable characters of the latter, reappear in the former to enhance the story and bring it full circle.

The elements of political intrigue and maneuvering present in The Winter Sea reappear in The Firebird as well, for the story starts circa 1715, when the second Jacobite insurrection took place and failed miserably.

As the story moved to St. Petersburg, I was given a glimpse of a court I didn't know anything about; that made me up on my TBR list the book Russka by Edward Rutherfurd, a historical fiction account of Russia's history.

I still have two more books by Susanna Kearsley on my TBR list, but I'm trying to space them out until the new one comes out next year.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Martian by Andy Weir (♦♦♦♦½)

Mark Watney is a botanist, mechanical engineer, and above all else an astronaut, who gets stranded on Mars, given for dead, when the crew of the Ares 3 is forced to evacuate the planet on Day 6 of the mission due to sustained gale force winds during a sand storm. Henceforth, Mark’s survival skills will be tested to the outmost.

I have been through different phases as a reader. In my teenage years I read science- fiction, among other genres. I outgrew my sci-fi years mostly due to lack of enough material to read in that genre, but I've broken the spell with The Martian by Andy Weir, thanks in part to Sarah @ Sarah's Book Shelves, who lured me to it based on her intriguing review. The Martian has been, by the way, named one the best books of 2014... And I bought a Kindle copy for a steal, so I had no excuse.

The Martian is hysterical, and addictive. It's so much nerdy fun that it should be a sin. The humor is reminiscent of Robin Sloan's Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, or vice-versa, because The Martian was first published in 2011. Both talk about science and technology in an irreverent yet full-of-wonder fashion.

I was powerless since page 1, because really, who starts a book with such well earned profanity?!

More than a science- fiction book, The Martian is popular science at its very best. It is brilliant yet unpretentious. Who knew someone would have the key to surviving the unimaginable on Mars?

But not everything is funny in the plot development, there is a lot of administrative stuff going on at NASA since they find out Mark Watney is alive. The fight for survival is evocative of Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and the more modern Yann Martel’s Life of Pi. The closest movie resemblances are Mission to Mars, Apollo 13, and the more recent Gravity and Europa Report.

The Martian reads like a movie script, and it has all the ingredients to be a great one too: humor, intra-agency politics, intergovernmental negotiations, and good science.

Favorite quotes:

“Once I got home, I sulked for a while. All my brilliant plans foiled by thermodynamics. Damn you, Entropy!” Page 72

“Three sols later, Lewis Valley opened into a wide plain. So, again, I was left without references and relied on Phobos to guide me. There’s probably symbolism there. Phobos is the god of fear, and I’m letting it be my guide. Not a good sign.” Page 98

“It’s a strange feeling. Everywhere I go, I’m the first. Step outside the rover? First guy ever to be there! Climb a hill? First guy to climb that hill! Kick a rock? That rock hadn’t moved in a million years!
I’m the first guy to drive long-distance on Mars. The first guy to spend more than thirty-one sols on Mars. The first guy to grow crops on Mars. First, first, first!” Page 99

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Stay With Me by Alison Gaylin (♦♦♦♦)

Brenna Spector discovers only too late that her teen daughter Maya has been keeping secrets from her. Apparently she has found a community of friends online and has gotten dangerously close to one, making all sorts of personal confessions.

When Maya is humiliated at a sleepover and runs away in tears, her new-found friend is more than ready to rescue her. But who is this woman and what is she hiding? With the clock ticking, Brenna will get to the truth of her daughter’s disappearance, but… will it be too late?

I realized not so long ago, that I’m into three series so far: the Gabriel Allon series by Daniel Silva, the Sharpe & Donovan series by Carla Neggers, and the Brenna Spector series by Alison Gaylin. I also read the first installment in the trilogy of Josephine B. by Sandra Gulland, with the other two installments yet to follow, and I have a few other trilogies I want to get into.

Back to topic, Stay With Me is the third installment in the Brenna Spector series by Alison Gaylin, after And She Was, and Into the Dark. I thought that And She Was was just OK, but Gaylin upped the ante in the books that followed. In my opinion, Stay With Me is the best of the three, but I think the future of the series may be in jeopardy because of what happened in it.

If you have been following the series, well maybe not, but if you have read my reviews on the previous installments you probably know that Brenna’s sister Clea disappeared at the age of seventeen, never to be seen or heard of again. In Into the Dark, Brenna got some answers to her sister’s whereabouts a month after she left home, and she found her sister’s diary in someone else’s possession. In Stay With Me, Brenna gets closure; the past and the present collide in a violent and unexpected way, hence my thought about the future of the series.

Since Stay With Me started I knew it was different from its predecessors in the series because it grabbed my attention faster and never let me go. It was easier to read and harder to put down. Also, the suspense was toned down and the thriller factor upped. The plot and subplots were also more realistic and current. Suffice is to say that I really liked Stay With Me, but it makes me wonder what may happen next, for as I said, everything that needed happening already did.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Bookman’s Tale by Charlie Lovett (♦♦♦)

A Novel of Obsession

Peter Byerly lost his wife Amanda to cancer nine months ago. Reeling with grief, he decided to escape North Carolina and move to a cottage in the English countryside with the prospect of restarting his career as an antiquarian bookseller.

On one of his book hunting expeditions, Peter finds a portrait by an unknown Victorian painter with the image of Amanda. Obsessed, Peter starts tracking down the elusive painter, which leads him to a manuscript that might revolutionize the literary world if it is real, for it reveals the true identity of Shakespeare.

Running against the clock, Peter finds himself in the midst of a family feud going back for at least two centuries, and he may very well lose his own life for a killer is intent on keeping a secret from being revealed.

I bought The Bookman’s Tale because it promised a story resembling The Shadow of the Wind and Mr.Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, both of which I loved. While The Shadow of the Wind was about a book within a book and a gothic mystery, Mr. Penumbra’s was a sparkly tale about the search for information in the age of technology. The underlying theme in all three books is the love of books and how important it is to preserve them. While I loved the latter two, I didn’t much care about The Bookman’s Tale; I found it erudite yet dry.

The Bookman’s Tale, written by former antiquarian bookseller Charlie Lovett, conveys its message about how profoundly important and cool would be to settle the controversy surrounding Shakespeare’s identity. There’s love, wealth and loss thereof, and murder to spice up the plot, but somehow I found it so unconvincing…I don’t mean to say that the book didn’t have its good moments; it did. I smiled at times with the sweetness and awkwardness of the love affair between Peter and Amanda, and the mystery was good too, but there were too many characters and the book jumped back and forth in time, different years as well, as the provenance of the manuscript was tracked down.

I love books not only because I’m a reader. I practically grew up in a library, so this kind of books holds a special place in my heart. I was hoping The Bookman’s Tale was going to become a new favorite, instead I was somewhat disappointed.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman (♦♦♦♦♦)

It’s 1926…

Tom and Isabel Sherbourne are a married young couple living on Janus Island, the farthest lighthouse post in the Commonwealth of Australia, surrounded by two oceans. Life on Janus is hard and primal. They only get home leave after three years of service. Isabel has suffered three miscarriages along the years, but a mysterious boat, carrying a dead man and a baby girl, arrives on the shore bringing with it the possibility of realizing their dreams of parenthood.

You have no idea how many books from my TBR list I've started to read then put aside for whatever reason; The Light Between Oceans is no exception, but when I kept reading this time around and it became so hard to put down, that's when I regretted not having read it sooner.

When I read The Red Tent, I had the opportunity of thinking more deeply about something I've thought for several years; I know it might sound pretentious, even grandiose, but when God gave women the power of conception, I believe that was as close as he could get to giving women a taste of his own power as creator of life. I say this because by reading The Light Between Oceans, I've had time to think what makes a family what it is, and also what defines parenthood: biology or rearing a child with love... Intense and heartbreaking, The Light Between Oceans is a profound reflection on the meaning of motherhood, and the bond between a mother and her child.

There were wow passages, and lots of oh-my-god ones, and other more quiet ones, immediately followed by more omg moments. There were times when I thought my heart would not withstand so much emotion, such as when an angry mob chased Frank to the jetty, and he made the decision to wait at sea until the mob cooled off; foolish yet powerful, for that decision altered the course of the story.

I sobbed on two occasions: when Tom wrote the letter to Isabel, and near the end. Despite the difficult choices involved in the plot, the story developed as it should, it ended sadly, but on a high note.

Favorite quotes:

“Nineteen fourteen was just flags and new-smelling leather on uniforms. It wasn’t until a year later that life started to feel differently—started to feel as if maybe this wasn’t a sideshow after all—when, instead of getting back their precious, strapping husbands and sons, the women began to get telegrams. These bits of paper which could fall from stunned hands and blow about in the knife-sharp wind, which told you that the boy you’d suckled, bathed, scolded and cried over, was—well—wasn’t. Partageuse joined the world late and in painful labor.”  Page 17

“You could kill a bloke with rules, Tom knew that. And yet sometimes they were what stood between man and savagery, between man and monsters. The rules that said you took a prisoner rather than killed a man. The rules that said you let the stretchers cart the enemy off from no-man’s-land as well as your own men. But always, it would come down to the simple question: could de deprive Isabel of this baby? If the child was alone in the world? Could it really be right to drag her away from a woman who adored her, to some lottery of Fate?”  Pages 104-105

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Poesía Completa, Jorge Luis Borges- parte 4 (♦♦♦♦♦)


Para las Seis Cuerdas (1965)

En la colección Para las Seis Cuerdas, Borges dedica milongas (poemas rimados que se hacen acompañar por los rasguidos de una guitarra) a forajidos que se hicieron famosos allá por 1890. En estas milongas los temas recurrentes son las peleas a cuchillos y la muerte.

Entre éstos mi favorito es Milonga de Manuel Flores.

Manuel Flores va a morir,
eso es moneda corriente;
morir es una costumbre
que sabe tener la gente.

Y sin embargo me duele
decirle adiós a la vida,
esa cosa tan de siempre,
tan dulce y tan conocida.

Miro en el alba mis manos,
miro en las manos las venas;
con estrañeza las miro
como si fueran ajenas.

Vendrán los cuatro balazos
y con los cuatro el olvido;
lo dijo el sabio Merlín:
morir es haber nacido.

¡Cuánto cosa en su camino
estos ojos habrán visto!
Quién sabe lo que verán
después que me juzgue Cristo.

Manuel Flores va a morir,
eso es moneda corriente:
morir es una costumbre
que sabe tener la gente.

Elogio de la Sombra (1969)

Borges expresa en el prólogo de Elogio de la Sombra, "a los espejos, laberintos y espadas que ya prevé mi resignado lector se han agregado dos temas nuevos [en esta colección]: la vejez y la ética." Expresa además que "en estas páginas conviven, creo que sin discordia, las formas de la prosa y del verso." Estas dos citas describen, sin lugar a dudas, el contenido de esta colección de poemas.

En su prólogo, Borges escribe también "yo anhelé alguna vez la vasta respiración de los psalmos o de Walt Whitman; al cabo de los años compruebo, no sin melancolía, que me he limitado a alternar algunos metros clásicos: el alejandrino, el endecasílabo, el heptasílabo."

Borges comienza esta colección de poemas con Juan I, 14 (una enumeración de las cosas que formaron parte de la vida de Jesús)--un ejemplo de la prosa y la ética de las que habló en el prólogo. Heráclito es también una muestra de prosa en verso, como también lo son Cambridge, The unending gift y Mayo 20, 1928. En A cierta sombra, 1940, Borges alude a la amenaza que se cernió sobre Inglaterra por parte de Alemania e Italia durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial.

James Joyce, Rubaiyat, Acevedo, y New England, 1967 son ejemplos de poemas en verso en esta colección. En New England, 1967 Borges alude a la nostalgia de estar lejos de Buenos Aires cuando expresa "Buenos Aires, yo sigo caminando por tus esquinas, sin por qué ni cuándo." En Ricardo Güiraldes y El laberinto, también ejemplos de versos rimados, la muerte es un tema subyaciente. En El laberinto, Borges escribe

Sé que en la sombra hay Otro,
cuya suerte es fatigar las largas soledades
que tejen y destejen este Hades
y ansiar mi sangre y devorar mi muerte.

En Laberinto, el tema es el destino. En Las Cosas, uno de sus poemas cumbre, Borges habla de la constancia de las cosas de las que nos rodeamos; en éste dice Borges: "Durarán más allá de nuestro olvido; no sabrán nunca que nos hemos ido."

Hay otros poemas que son variaciones de un mismo tema como Junio, 1968, El guardián de los libros y Un lector, en los que Borges expresa su amor por los libros; Israel, 1969 y A Israel, son cantos a la tierra de Israel, mientras que Israel expresa lo que significa ser judío.

La colección concluye con Elogio de la Sombra, en el que Borges habla de su vejez y de las sombras (porque es semi-ciego) en las que adivina una calle de su querida Buenos Aires, un rostro amigo, una mujer que amó, los libros y sus historias.

En esta colección mi poema favorito es Las cosas.

El bastón, las monedas, el llavero,
la dócil cerradura, las tardías
notas que no leerán los pocos días
que me quedan, los naipes y el tablero,

un libro y en sus páginas la ajada
violeta, monumento de una tarde
sin duda inolvidable y ya olvidada,
el rojo espejo occidental en que arde

una ilusoria aurora. ¡Cuántas cosas,
láminas, umbrales, atlas, copas, clavos,
nos sirven como tácitos esclavos,

ciegas y extrañamente sigilosas!
Durarán más allá de nuestro olvido;
no sabrán nunca que nos hemos ido.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

La Casa de los Espíritus (House of Spirits) by Isabel Allende (♦♦♦♦♦)

Three generations of the family Trueba-Del Valle converge in this sweeping saga spanning most of the twentieth century in Chile. Esteban, the stubborn patriarch, and his granddaughter Alba, tell the unfolding story of the family amidst convulse political changes sweeping their country and the world.

In Eva Luna, I felt that the story was forced and uneven, though it was compelling and funny at times. I liked City of the Beasts more than I did Eva Luna. The description of the expedition by boat through the Amazon jungle was atmospheric, simply transporting. However, in House of the Spirits, Allende achieved something quite remarkable and unique: it is effortless storytelling--not deprived of literary recourses but a fascinating story nonetheless--in which time isn't needed to orient the reader because the plot unfolds of its own accord; the result is a modern classic of Latin American literature.

House of Spirits is an enthralling narrative in which oracles and the paranormal coexist with the reality of daily life and the hallucinating political landscape that takes shape between the pages. The story is timeless because it isn't constrained by dates, nor it is constrained to a specific country though no doubt Allende is alluding convulse political changes that Chile underwent in modern times.

I loved House of Spirits. I think that Isabel Allende consecrated herself in the pantheon of great writers in the Spanish language with this novel alone. My favorite characters were Esteban Trueba (for his sound political views and his strong character) and Clara (for being so ethereal most of the times, yet so grounded when situations called for a leveled head). I felt more identified with those two characters than I did with the rest.

La Casa de los Espíritus por Isabel Allende (♦♦♦♦♦)

Tres generaciones de la familia Trueba-Del Valle convergen en esta saga que abarca la mayoría del siglo XX en Chile. Esteban, el patriarca de la familia, y Alba, su nieta, cuentan la historia de la familia entre los convulsos cambios políticos que arrasan al país y al mundo.

En Eva Luna, yo sentí que la historia estaba forzada, aún cuando fue absorbente y simpática en ocasiones. Me gustó La Ciudad de las Bestias más que Eva Luna. La descripción de la expedición en bote a través de la selva Amazónica fue atmosférica y evocadora. Sin embargo, en La Casa de los Espíritus, Allende logró algo mágico y único: es una novela fluída, cuya escritura aparenta ser fácil, no privada sin embargo de recursos literarios, sino una historia fascinante en la cual el tiempo no es necesario para orientar al lector puesto que la historia se desenvuelve a su propio ritmo; el resultado es un clásico moderno de la literatura latinoamericana.

La Casa de los Espíritus es una narrativa hechizante en la cual coexisten oráculos y lo paranormal con la realidad de lo cotidiano y el alucinante panorama político que toma forma entre sus páginas. La historia es eterna porque no está limitada por fechas ni a un país específico, aunque sin dudas Allende alude a los convulsos cambios políticos que sacudieron a Chile en los tiempos modernos.

Me encantó La Casa de los Espíritus. Creo que con esta novela Isabel Allende se consagró en el panteón de los grandes escritores en idioma español. Mis personajes favoritos fueron Esteban Trueba (por sus ideas políticas y su carácter fuerte) y Clara (por ser etérea la mayoría de las veces, pero también muy lógica cuando la ocasión lo requería). Me sentí más identificada con esos dos personajes que con todos los demás.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Poesía Completa, Jorge Luis Borges- parte 3 (♦♦♦♦♦)


El Otro, El Mismo (1964)

Esta compilación de poemas, que abarca tres décadas, es erudita por naturaleza. En ésta, Borges le rinde culto a novelistas como Cervantes (Un Soldado de Urbina), al filósofo y prosista barroco Baltasar Gracián (en un poema homónimo), y a poetas del calibre de John Milton (Una rosa y Milton), Homero (El otro), Dante, Whitman (Camden, 1892), Emerson, Edgar Allan Poe y Rafael Cansinos-Asséns (en poemas homónimos). Además Borges rinde homenaje a poetas menores que no trascendieron su tiempo (A un poeta menor de la antología; Un poeta del siglo XIII; A un poeta menor de 1899).

También Borges rinde tributo a héroes (Poema Conjetural; Un soldado de Lee (1862)), de su extirpe (Junín; Página para recordar al coronel Suárez, vencedor en Junín), y de gestas, como Ulises (Odisea, Libro Vigésimo Tercero) y Beowulf (Fragmento), y a los sajones cuyas espadas forjaron a Inglaterra (Un sajón (449 A.D.)).

No sólo de héroes literarios o de gestas escribe Borges en El Otro, El Mismo, sino también de cosas más cotidianas como el agua (Poema del cuarto elemento), el mar, el hambre, el vino y una moneda. La magia y la ciencia convergen en El Alquimista, y la extrañeza de quien se encuentra en otra ciudad, en El Forastero; la memoria de Dios y la ausencia del olvido son los temas en Everness y en Ewigkeit; la herencia hispánica de latinoamérica lo es en España, y los pequeños milagros de la vida en Otro poema de los dones; a los placeres del sueño describe en El sueño.

A veces Borges recurre a la rima tan característicamente Borgesiana (Al vino; Soneto del vino, El hambre), y otras veces recurre a simples versos para hilvanar una historia (Mateo XXV, 30; Hengist Cyning; Alguien).

Me he dado cuenta de que yo prefiero la rima Borgesiana a la falta de ésta. Invariablemente los poemas que más me gustan de Borges tienen eso en común. Mis poemas favoritos en esta antología son Poema del cuarto elemento y El sueño.


Poema del cuarto elemento

El Dios a quien un hombre de la estirpe de Atreo
apresó en una playa que el bochorno lacera,
se convirtió en león, en dragón, en pantera,
en un árbol y en agua. Porque el agua es Proteo.

Es la nube, la irrecordable nube, es la gloria
del ocaso que ahonda, rojo, los arrabales;
es el Maelström que tejen los vórtices glaciales,
y la lágrima inútil que doy a tu memoria.

Fue, en las cosmogonías, el origen secreto
de la tierra que nutre, del fuego que devora,
de los dioses que rigen el poniente y la aurora.
(Así lo afirman Séneca y Tales de Mileto.)

El mar y la moviente montaña que destruye
a la nave de hierro sólo son tus anáforas,
y el tiempo irreversible que nos hiere y que huye,
agua, no es otra cosa que una de tus metáforas.

Fuiste, bajo ruinosos vientos, el laberinto
sin muros ni ventana, cuyos caminos grises
largamente desviaron al anhelado Ulises,
de la Muerte segura y el Azar indistinto.

Brillas como las crueles hojas de los alfanjes,
hospedas, como el sueño, monstruos y pesadillas.
Los lenguajes del hombre te agregan maravillas
y tu fuga se llama el Éufrates o el Ganges.

(Afirman que es sagrada el agua del postrero,
pero como los mares urden oscuros canjes
y el planeta es poroso, también es verdadero
afirmar que todo hombre se ha bañado en el Ganges.)

De Quincey, en el tumulto de los sueños,
ha visto empedrarse tu océano de rostros, de naciones;
has aplacado el ansia de las generaciones,
has lavado la carne de mi padre y de Cristo.

Agua, te lo suplico. Por este soñoliento
nudo de numerosas palabras que te digo,
acuérdate de Borges, tu nadador, tu amigo.
No faltes a mis labios en el postrer momento.

El sueño

Si el sueño fuera (como dicen) una
tregua, un puro reposo de la mente,
¿por qué, si te despiertan bruscamente,
sientes que te han robado una fortuna?
¿Por qué es tan triste madrugar? La hora
nos despoja de un don inconcebible,
tan íntimo que sólo es traducible
en un sopor que la vigilia dora
de sueños, que bien pueden ser reflejos
truncos de los tesoros de la sombra,
de un orbe intemporal que no se nombra
y que el día deforma en sus espejos.
¿Quién serás esta noche en el oscuro
sueño, del otro lado de su muro?