Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Aimless Reading: The A's, Part 14

Allende, Isabel
La casa de los espíritus
The House Of The Spirits

Isabel Allende, the first cousin once removed of overthrown Chilean president Salvador Allende, is probably one of the most famous living novelists in the world, and this is the book that made her so. She is coming to Buffalo to speak in the Babel series in April, so I thought I'd take the opportunity to brush off my Spanish and try to read this in the original. I read it in June and I have read little in English since -- at least in terms of my literary reading. Mostly, I've been reading Roberto Bolaño -- I read Los detectives salvajes this summer and am nearly finished with 2666 right now. I've also read Carlos Fuentes, Borges, and about half of Don Quixote (which was very, very difficult, esp. all the archaic constructions). Anyhow, I am excited to meet her.

House of the Spirits is a sweeping "magical realist" novel that basically covers most of the 20th century in Chile, from the haciendas to the military dictatorship. Here's the opening (in English!):

Barrabás came to us by sea, the child Clara wrote in her delicate calligraphy. She was already in the habit of writing down the important matters, and afterward, when she was mute, she also recorded trivialities, never suspecting that fifty years later I would use her notebooks to reclaim the past and overcome terrors of my own.

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