Friday 6 May 2011


I know I said I’d stop going on about Antonio Munoz Molina. I can’t. I so love his writing. Many of his books are available in English translation. No doubt I'll be reading the major works and trying to write about them. I thought I’d start with something shorter, though, as I’ve been so tired in recent months and struggling a bit with the challenging reading I normally think nothing of (I’ve given up for now on the first volume of Javier Marias’ Your Face Tomorrow – will certainly return to it). So I bought a short novel published more than a decade ago, Carlota Fainberg, which I've been reading this week on my bus journeys to work. Going back to work after two weeks off is surreally difficult, a matter of deep breaths and one moment at a time. I’ve therefore been grateful to find this novel so absorbing, vivid, thought-provoking, very funny but also disturbing.

Two Spaniards, a talkative, globetrotting businessman and a reticent academic teaching at a nearby university, meet at Pittsburgh airport, trapped there by a blizzard. The academic is flying to Buenos Aires, looking forward to it – if he ever gets to leave, that it is; as the snow keeps falling, he’s starting to fear that the trip won’t happen. Whilst rather appalled by the crass, self-confident businessman who intrusively assumes that a fellow countryman will welcome his company for however long they’re stuck there, he submits to it as a distraction, sits and listens to what becomes an account of the other man’s trip to Buenos Aires some years earlier, his stay in an alarmingly dilapidated grand hotel and the unforgettable woman he met there (evoked in lurid terms not used these days on a US university campus; the listener winces, but keeps listening). It’s very compelling. I’m only half way through.

Yesterday, I turned to the author’s blog and found a post headed To Buenos Aires! He was writing from a New York airport, about to fly there that very day, reminiscing about earlier trips in times of dilapidation, economic collapse and political repression, welcoming recent changes for the better, the new life and cheer in the city. I have rarely felt, on discovering a new writer, such excitement, such connection, such happy anticipation of discovering all his works. As I started reading the blog-post, I hugged myself with joy. Synchronicity happens!


Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Jean, yes, I completely understand your fascination with Molina - he is excellent and addictive. His May 3 post on the grotesque jubilation at the killing of BL eloquently expresses what many people, including me, feel.

It's also interesting to read some of the huge number of comments at his blog, all highly literate and vying for attention from the master.

Jean said...

Oh, I'm so glad you're reading too, Natalie! I completely agree about his May 3 post.

Not so sure about the commenters - so many of them are off the point, and indeed seem mostly keen on getting the attention of this well known writer... Perhaps I'm being uncharitable and want to be his only adoring online disciple :-)