Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Things I discovered while browsing in the magazine shop during my lunch break

1. Tim Parks reviews That Awful Mess on the Via Merulana, by Carlo Emilio Gadda, in the London Review of Books. And still he thinks very little of William Weaver's ability as a translator. (I haven't read That Awful Mess, but I really, really want to.)

2. The Insufferable Gaucho, by Roberto Bolaño, in The New Yorker.

In spite of everything, his life was happy. It's hard not to be happy, he used to say, in Buenos Aires, which is a perfect blend of Paris and Berlin, although if you look closely it's more like a perfect blend of Lyons and Prague. Every day, he got up at the same time as his children, had breakfast with them, and dropped them off at school. He spent the rest of the morning reading at least two newspapers; and, after a snack at eleven (consisting basically of cold cuts and sausage on buttered French bread and two or three little glasses of Argentine or Chilean wine, except on special occasions, when the wine was, naturally, French), he took a siesta until one. His lunch, which he ate on his own in an enormous, empty dining room while reading a book under the absentminded gaze of the elderly maid, and the black-and-white gaze of his deceased wife looking out from photographs in ornate silver frames, was light: soup and a small portion of fish and mashed potatoes, some of which he would allow to go cold. In the afternoon, he helped his children with their homework, or sat through Cuca's piano lessons in silence, or Bebe's English and French classes, given by two teachers with Italian surnames, who came to the house. Sometimes, when Cuca had learned to play a whole piece, the maid and the cook would come to listen, too, and the lawyer, filled with pride, would hear them murmur words of praise, which struck him at first as excessive, but then, on reflection, seemed perfectly apt. After saying good night to his children and reminding his domestic staff for the umpteenth time not to open the door to anyone, he went to his favorite café, on Corrientes, where he would stay until one at the very latest, listening to his friends or friends of theirs discussing issues that he suspected he would find supremely boring if he knew anything about them, after which he went back home, where everyone was asleep.


Ah, life.
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