I first heard about Fogwill from Javier Molea at McNally Robinson, who insisted that I read him. (I think the phrase Javier kept repeating was “mind-blowing.”) It was a great coincidence to find that Serpent’s Tail had just published Malvinas Requiem (Los Pichiciegos), and an even greater coincidence to find out that the fantastic Michael Gaeb is Fogwill’s agent . . .
Anyway, E.J. referenced this earlier, but I’m planning on reviewing this remarkable book later this week. What really struck me about the Guardian article though was it’s cultural specificity re: the Falklands conflict. It’s a truism to state that jacket copy is written with a specific audience in mind, but it’s really interesting to compare the Serpent’s Tail copy to that of the agent. . . .
First, Serpent’s Tail:
June 1982, The Falklands/Malvinas.
Twenty-four young Argentine soldiers who have deserted the army spend the last weeks of the conflict hiding out in a cave. Inside their refuge they listen to the radio, stockpile supplies and exchange stories; outside, under cover of night, they trade with the Argentine Quartermaster and with the British. Looking out over the bleak landscape, after weeks of grey skies and horizontal snow, one of them remarks that ‘you’d have to be English to want this’.
Catch-22 meets Dispatches in the Falkland Islands—Malvinas Requiem is a shocking, subtle and superbly written commentary on the utter futility of war. Darkly comic and deeply affecting, the book contributed to the defeat of the military junta in Argentina and, 25 years after its first publication, still continues to make waves.
And Michael Gaeb’s description:
Los Pichiciegos is an astonishing tale derived from the Falklands/Malvinas conflict in 1982. The Pichis are a group of Argentine deserters, who have established a subterranean settlement. They are maroons who trade with both sides (British and Argentinean) as they seek the kerosene, sugar, cigarettes, and so on that they need to survive. In this work Fogwill shows the dissolution of virtues in a world where only survival counts and the loss of national identity in the face of war. He intentionally didn’t write a story of heroes or a reflection on war or pacifism but an unsympathetic depiction of the harsh conditions of survival. In the tradition of Bioy Casares’ novel La invención de Morel, Fogwill creates a narrative universe between reality and fantasy.
Here in America, the Falklands War doesn’t hold the same fascination as it obviously does in Great Britain, but it’s interesting to me how much more Falklands specific the first description sounds in comparison to the second. To me, Michael’s copy plays up the literary side of things (and the sort of absurdity) rather than emphasizing the specificity of the book.
(As a big Bioy Casares fan—which all Lost addicts should be—it’s that reference that caught my eye.)
It’s not as if these descriptions are incongruent or anything, it’s just curious to me from a marketing perspective to see these cultural differences play themselves out.
The last five days of the eleventh-century Icelandic politician, writer of sagas, and famous murder victim Snorri Sturleleson (the Norwegian spelling, Snorre, is preserved in the book) make up Thorvald Steen’s most recently translated historical fiction, The Little Horse. Murdered. . .
We all know Paris, or at least we think we know it. The Eiffel Tower. The Latin Quarter. The Champs-Élysées. The touristy stuff. In Dominique Fabre’s novel, Guys Like Me, we’re shown a different side of Paris: a gray, decaying. . .
One hundred pages into Birth of a Bridge, the prize-winning novel from French writer Maylis de Kerangal, the narrator describes how starting in November, birds come to nest in the wetlands of the fictional city of Coca, California, for three. . .
At 30, the Mexican writer Valeria Luiselli is already gathering her rosebuds. Faces in the Crowd, her poised debut novel, was published by Coffee House Press, along with her Brodsky-infused essay collection, Sidewalks. The essays stand as a theoretical map. . .
Fantomas Versus the Multinational Vampires: An Attainable Utopia (narrated by Julio Cortázar) is, not disappointingly, as wild a book as its title suggests. It is a half-novella half-graphic novel story about . . . what, exactly? A European tribunal, Latin. . .
Marie NDiaye has created a tiny, psychological masterpiece with her Self-Portrait in Green. In it she explores how our private fears and insecurities can distort what we believe to be real and can cause us to sabotage our intimate relationships.. . .
Reading a genre book—whether fantasy, science fiction, crime, thriller, etc.—which begins to seem excessively, stereotypically bad, I have to make sure to ask myself: is this parodying the flaws of the genre? Usually, this questioning takes its time coming. In. . .
The Sicilian Mafia has always been a rich subject for sensational crime fiction. The Godfather, Goodfellas, and The Sopranos worked the mob’s bloody corpses and family feuds to both entertainment and artistic value. Giuseppe di Piazza’s debut novel attempts this,. . .
Antoine Volodine’s vast project (40 plus novels) of what he calls the post-exotic remains mostly untranslated, so for many of us, understanding it remains touched with mystery, whispers from those “who know,” and guesswork. That’s not to say that, were. . .
It hasn’t quite neared the pitch of the waiting-in-line-at-midnight Harry Potter days, but in small bookstores and reading circles of New York City, an aura has attended the novelist Elena Ferrante and her works. One part curiosity (Who is she?),. . .