Reading Recently (early November 2019)

My admiration for Fitzcarraldo Editions is sincere and unlimited. I finished reading Maria Tumarkin’s Axiomatic, read against the grain of more usual reading material. I must do this more often. I’ve been struggling to complete anything I begin to read recently, feeling a distaste for literature, without any discernible origin. I tore through the complex, fascinating essays in Axiomatic, drawn, as is so often the case with non-fiction, by the power of Tumarkin’s voice. She is evidently a responsive observer, vibrantly present in her writing, not introspective but a shrewd, melancholy sensibility.

In this expansive mood I turned to another recent Fitzcarraldo publication, translated by Frank Wynne. There isn’t much to The Fallen by Carlos Manuel Álvarez: an atmosphere, a displacement of consciousness across a family of characters, a suggestion that family life limits natural expression. It is a rendering of lived experience that offers social commentary without an explicit morality. The crisp writing style belies a depth that compels the reader to interpret each character’s feelings and motivations for their actions from limited information. I’ve been re-watching Michael Haneke’s films recently and kept thinking of how he would treat this book. The richness of the images would translate well into film.

‘So this is how it is. Stars fall from the sky like shot baby sparrows in Mao’s China. Books are imperishable only because burning them to ash takes so little (it’s not like blowing up buildings); they are imperishable only because they are so ready to survive, dispersed across the world, as trails of dust, kernels, memories, shreds. As to us, me and you, oh it’s simple. We are the broken vessels containing, spilling all over the place, those who came before us.’

Axiomatic, Maria Tumarkin

I should trust more, Fitzcarraldo Editions, to lead me to unexpected places, books that I wouldn’t have thought to read, but that end up moving me greatly, that insinuate themselves inside and linger on late into the night. Some books, even fine ones, end up passing through the cognitive system without harming the animal, others less so.

‘I don’t know how not to be scared and if it’s important that I try — children and parents always lead double lives, this separateness, a mutual elusiveness, being something like a structural necessity […] Parts of us will always, must always, remain unknowable to each other.’

Maria Tumarkin, Axiomatic