Charco Press does it again. I have a bit of an obsession with Latin American literature at the moment and hadn’t read any of Selva Almada’s work yet. This was a fantastic place to start.
Two young men, Pájaro Tamai and Marciano Miranda, lie dying amidst the dry grass and rubbish of a local recreation site currently being used by the fairground. Two men whose fathers were enemies. Two men who, briefly, were best friends as children and leant to become enemies through the prejudice of their fathers.
Both men are brickmakers and both are visited by their dead or missing fathers in their last minutes as we learn the history of their short lives and the feud between them, until they finally collapse. Masculinity comes under scrutiny in this lyrical and visceral tale in which love comes with costs.
It’s a beautifully written and translated (by Annie McDermott) book and I can’t wait to read more of Almada’s work. I’m a huge fan of Charco Press. The commissioning editors have excellent taste, the translators are top notch and I would be impoverished without their endeavours to bring Latin American contemporary writing to English readers. Thank you Charco Press and if you haven’t, buy one of their books now.
I’ll be reviewing Seven Steeples by Sara Baume next.
Three university friends, Zainab, Funmi and Enitan, meet all together for the first time in thirty years at the wedding of Funmi’s daughter, Destiny. Though the friends have maintained their friendship through WhatsApp and email, the complications of busy lives have kept them from all meeting in person.
Enitan has been living in New York after eloping with a white man, hasn’t spent much time back in Nigeria, and is returning with news of her impending divorce and her daughter, with whom she has a fractious relationship. Zainab is caring for a sick husband and her four sons and is exhausted and no longer financially comfortable. Funmi is living in luxury thanks to her rich husband and his undoubtedly shady business deals, and is more concerned with how things look than how her daughter feels.
1518, in and around Strasbourg, one starving, desperate woman starts to dance in the market square. It’s not long before others join her.
In the meantime, Lisbet, mistress of the bees on a farm outside the city, is waiting for her sister, a woman she has never met, to return from her punishment in the mountains. No one has told her why Agnethe was sent away, not even Lisbet’s best friend Ida.