Posted 125 days ago
Whereas the descriptions of Roxanne were beautifully written and vivid, I actually felt the narrator's relationship with her sister told us much more about her. Roxanne is seen as this almost perfect being that the narrator admires, so we don't get a lot of insight into what she really thinks about stuff. But I was kind of shocked at how frank she was while talking about her sister.
For example, she says "Not everybody has a lesbian sister to comfort them after a breakup." and then goes on to make fun of her sister for having one Coca-Cola. It looks like maybe she is the bully, but later in the story that gets fipped around and we learn that her sister bullied her as a kid. This is probably where much of her resentment comes from, and she has fixated on in over the years. This passage was telling:
Her words ate away at my liver until one day, she got moles too, on the inside of her arm, redder and bulgier than mine. For a few months, I had faith in the power of the mind – I’d infected her with them! I don’t think I’ve ever been happier than the day her moles grew to the same size as mine, then kept growing until they were nearly twice as big.
She was nearly happy at her sister's misfortune. This kind of tells us that the narrator is projecting her own insecurities outwards, and I would wager the rest of the book is her struggling with herself more than anybody else.
Posted 125 days ago
I'm a big fan of Catalan literature: Death in Spring by Mercè Rodoreda is one of my favorite books and Quim Monzó is one of my favorite short story writees. It's nice to see Baltasar's piece in this issue of Granta and I really appreciate how they treat Catalan culture more broadly, always making sure to not bundle it up in Spain or Spanish culture which is, unfortunately, often the case. The Iberian peninsula is a complex place with tons of languages and cultures that can't be confined by simple, historical, "national" boundaries dating centuries ago.
As for Baltasar's piece, it's clear that she is an excellent write (with a very good translator). She is an astute observer:
She was, as Mom would put it, from a good family, and this being-from-a-good-family showed on her like a coat of varnish.
But something that bothers me more broadly about the pseudo-stream-of-consciousness literature is the reliance on incomplete sentences. For example:
As I write this, I relive it, and millions of my cells pass along buckets of glowing water to put out goodness knows what fire. Fast and blind. My heart flares up, damaging the pleural membrane, which is so unaccustomed to playing along. Roxanne.
To me, both "Fast and Blind" and "Roxanne" as independent sentences is not helpful at all. It is jarring and takes away from the very good sentences that Baltasar builds. I don't see the need to put these little quirky words here. It almost seems like Baltasar is trying to be "artsy" by doing so, whereas the writing would be more more elegant without them.
This could be part of the translation; I'm not sure. Either way, people seem to like this from of writing these days. Maybe it makes the reader feel closer to the narration. But I think it's a technique that should be dropped unless completely necessary.