Saturday, 27 February 2010

Earthquake in Chile

One of the strongest earthquakes of all time just hit Chile this morning, and has severely affected Concepción. It is even stronger than the earthquake that hit Haiti. I'm quite worried about my relatives and friends there and in Santiago, too. What is quite worrying is that Chile now have their first democratically elected right-wing president since 1958, and Pinera is known to be quite an impatient, hot-headed man...

I was often driven across that bridge when I was younger...

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This is my first (and probably last) post concerning current events...

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Review #9


Los detectives salvajes (The Savage Detectives) - Roberto Bolaño

Roberto Bolano is a Chilean writer who has attracted a great deal of interest recently from the western world, and has proved to be the most widely-read contemporary Latin-American writer. I've been meaning to read his book, The Savage Detectives, for a couple of years but only just got around to start it in November 2009 and finished it in January 2010. As I'm bilingual, I chose to read the book in its original language: Spanish.

The Savage Detectives is a novel which has been acclaimed as one of the greatest Latin-American books of all time to be put beside Cortázar's Hopscotch and countless others. The '60s and '70s saw a massive boom of literary fertility, with new innovative novels proposing new methods of approaching form and sturcture. Many see Bolano's book as a return to an emergence of fresh, original and innovatory ideas from South America. Bolano was a writer who, even when accepted into the literary establishment, railed against the mainstream's preference for magical realism.

Bolano's work is strongly semi-autobiographical. The literary movement 'visceral realism' strongly mirrors the movement he was part of: Infarrealism. The two main protagonists from the book, and the main leaders of 'visceral realism', are in fact based on Bolano himself (his name is modified as 'Arturo Belano' in the book) Mario Santiago, who is Ulises Lima in the novel. Bolano's and Lima's peregrinations across the world are often based on their real experiences, and the narratives related by an extremely wide range of characters are often based on people Bolano knew about or on the folklore that circulated around his literary clique.

From what I've read, the strongest parallel I can find to this novel is Life: A User's Manual by Georges Perec. Perec's novel revolves around a wide range of characters in an apartment block in a very cyclical fashion. Characters may appear and reappear, and what you get from reading them is a strong impression of their life. Bolano employs the same method in the most second and most substantial section of the novel: a myriad of characters narrate their lives, and they reappear and disappear. Another book which is cited more frequently as a parallel is Julio Cortázar's Hopscotch in its portrayal of young, bohemian artists narrated in a non-linear way. Bolano's writing style, however, doesn't have the same ethereal style and blend of the absurd and fantastical that Cortázar has.

The novel commences with a 17-year-old Mexican's diary entries which narrate his encounters with the visceral realists, and the adventures he pursues across Mexico city. This part of the novel is very, very entertaining and contains a lot of wanking and fucking. Juan García Madero truants from his law studies, and loses his virginity with another poet his age. He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of poetic rules and forms, and often uses these to embarrass Lima and Belano with their lack of knowledge. This section climaxes with Belano and Lima taking Madero with them on a stolen car, and the novel doesn't return to Madero's narration for some 400-odd pages.

The second section is the most extensive, and the centrepiece of the novel. Many characters talk about their attempts at poetry, their travels or their contact with Ulises Lima and Arturo Belano. There are so many characters that sometimes you forget them when they reappear. To begin with, Lima appears to be the predominating character where he travels to Israel and Germany among many other places, and eventually gets lost in Nicaragua but resurfaces in the novel later on and meets his world-renown nemesis Octavio Paz. Towards the end of this section, the narrative focuses more on Belano, who is Bolano's alter ego. Belano travels around relentlessly, and encounters a few female narrators who talk about their sexual encounters with him which are just as racy as those appearing in the first section of the novel. All this eventually spans twenty years - from 1976 to 1996 - and is situated in Mexico, Nicaragua, USA, France, Spain, Austria, Israel and Africa. The impressions one gets from these narratives are quite ambiguous; we are not quite sure if Lima and Belano are either to be esteemed or vilified - it all simply depends on who's talking. But both characters remain illusive and somewhat enigmatic.

Lima and Belano are obsessed with Cesarea Tinajero. In the novel, she is a poet who wrote in the 1920s and - we are told - a precursor to the visceral realist movement. This second section always retraces its steps by returning to the narration of a character talking in 1976, a friend of Tinajero's. He tells them her tumultuous history and her traits, and this prompts Belano and Lima on a excursion to find her in the Sonoran desert.

Poetry is not an intellectual interest for Bolano. Throughout the countless accounts narrated by the wide array of characters, we never see an example of the poets' work (we do in one notable example). Bolano is more interested in the romantic notion of the messy, disorganised life of poets and their encounters and adventures.

The novel is strongly allusive, and while it may seem like an easy read on one level the subtext is deeply indebted to South American literature and history. I am one of many who read this novel without picking up on much of the intertextuality, and the novel works splendidly on this level.

Around page 400 I became somewhat impatient and disillusioned, and the text does seem to drag on with little sense of direction. There seems to be a lot of repetition (a character will frequently end their section by saying "And I never saw him again"). But perseverance does pay off, and the novel eventually turns out to be a rewarding read.

When the section reaches 1996 and comes to an end, visceral realism appears to have disintegrated. All of its poets and members are listed, and they all move. This end is apt and microcosmically mirrors the rest of this section, and leaves itself open-ended. The third section returns to teh 17-year-old's diary, where him, Lima, Belano and a prostitute set out across the Sonoran desert in search of the poet Cesárea Tinajero. This section has the aura of a crime thriller, and can be quite exhilarating to read. This section forms a strange sort of resolution, and brings the mammoth novel to a close.

Friday, 12 February 2010

The remote edges #10

I'm not taking on board Doug's suggestion that he made in the last Remote Edges post. I don't want to have a couple of photographs every month, I want to have as many to cover the countryside surrounding me at a greater, extensive depth.

These are the last photographs taken with my old camera. They date from 11th of October, and I haven't been photographing since. I have a new camera which I got for christmas, and I'll hopefully be using it soon. One of the good things about this new camera is that it can store hundreds and hundreds of photos, so I can take it with me on my 2/3 day trips. I'm hoping to go out for a walk with my camera tomorrow, but with A2 examinations imminent I'll be having less and less time... I may have to postpone/cancel this blog post now and again... When A2 examinations and football world cup are over, I may be able to devote more time to my 'remote edges'.

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Wednesday, 10 February 2010

My state of mind #10

After quite a large delay, here's my latest state of mind post... Unfortunately, I couldn't churn out 8 posts in a month in January as I kept leaving the extensive posts aside for too long until it got too late... There's already been 10 days of February, but I'm going to try and focus on my 'state of mind' of January. I don't know if I'll be able to write 8 posts every month like last year.

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I'm up to here with having to attend college every day, and in particular the Spanish evening course. I often feel like getting up in the middle of the lesson and screaming YOURE ALL CUNTS YOURE ALL FUCKING CUNTS. Going to Chesterfield itself every day is depressing, too - it's a despicable town that depresses me, it's a fucking dump.

It's incredible how I waste my weekends. I plan it out meticulously, but end up loafing around and talking to my parents. Very seldom do I have a productive weekend. This is fucking, I look forward to these two days all week but end up wasting them.

I finished Roberto Bolano's Los Detectives Salvajes about a month ago, and I enjoyed it... It got a bit draining in page 400 - it didn't seem to be going anywhere, and I started getting irritated by character after character narrating this and that. But there is a resolution at the end of this section, and the third section splendidly sowed everything together. I will be writing a review of it over the next couple of days.

Instead of spending my college breaks reading my books, I am now starting to do college work instead. I want to maintain the same grades I got last year, and this seems to be a good strategy to do so... I am reading a book at the moment, but this is for college: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, which I'm finding to be really, really enjoyable.

I'm really hoping to get 3 As so that I can apply to the more prestigious unis... The college work I'm worried about is the language coursework and the literature exam.

When I finish my short story The Land of Dreams, which I write now and again, I will write 4 more, and I will assemble all 16 of my short stories into a little book... 8 copies will be available for free - contact me if you want one. Corrections and improvements will appear in this edition.

I'm constantly assaulted by noise of some sort or another; I yearn to flee to a silent, mystical city free from noise... I can't fucking stand it - especially when I'm trying to read a book.

I met Jenny. :) She seems like a nice, sweet girl. I invited her to see Godard's Pierrot Le Fou at the cinema, and when I asked if she was bored or irritated she said no. :) She also said that when I bombard her with smileys, she says "I feel like you are about to punch me." It may come as a relief that I am far calmer, soft-spoken and a tad nervous person in real life.

I'm writing a screenplay of Julio Cortázar's short story House Taken Over. I'm not being entirely faithful (like Antonioni wasn't entirely faithful with his Blow-Up) with it, but I'm hoping that it will turn out well. I was so relieved that for the creative project this year I didn't have to do any practical work - I fucking hate hanging around with cameras with the cunt students. I can write a screenplay instead. I've also been toying with the idea of implementing elements of Cortázar's other story Letter to a Young Lady in Paris into the script.

I never write as much for my fiction as I'd like to... This short story, The Land of Dreams, is quite possibly my greatest work yet - it's very Borgesian... But I don't seem to be committed enough to write every day for it.

Monday, 8 February 2010

An overview of my life

I once wrote "Anyone who writes their own biography is a pathetic wanker who thinks he/she has led a wonderful life".... Now I shall do just that... This is a small biographical sketch..

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I was born in Santiago, Chile in 1990, but my parents decided to move to the southern city Concepción when I was about one years old due to the unhealthy smog covering the capital. Chile was a new place for my mother, but my father was born in Chile to a British community and travelled back and forth Britain and Chile from his late adolescence onwards. I was born the year the Pinochet regime ended, as well during a period where a great deal of renovation was taking place all over the world: the Berlin wall was knocked down, and it seemed to be an era of new beginnings with a new decade imminent...

My first strong obsession came when I was about 4 or 5 years old and I got into comics... Superman, Batman, etc... I would rabidly devour the images and ask my dad for help with the words, and I eventually taught myself to read by looking at them - I didn't learn to read through school. It was around this time where I wrote picture-books. I'd draw crap figures (crap even for a boy of that age) and I would tell the narration to my dad for him to write it. I would often take these picture books to school for my kinder teacher to read to the class (I remember a girl saying "FUE MAS FOME TU HISTORIA"). Pre-kinder (ages of 4-5), I was rather depressed... Little 5-year-old depression... School started late for pre-kinder kids (5:00 PM) and during day time the maid of the house was cold and distant to me, and when I was in school I'd sit miserably in a corner silently. Kinder was better, I have fond memories of playing with a few of the children contently.

When primero basico started, my obsession switched around the middle of the year from comics to football. I even played in the football club despite been absolute shite at it, but I did improve a bit as I got older (I kept going to the club for a about three or four more years until I got the lightbulb idea to stop going). It was around this time when the Chilean players Ivan Zamorano and Marcelo Salas were at the height of their powers, and Chile qualified to '98 world cup. In segundo basico, I saw them play Italy who they were on the verge of beating until the 90th minute with a cunt decision from the referee. I also channelled my creativity into football, too. I'd have imaginary football leagues either in my imaginary country (where I was the centre-forward for the best team) or with the Chilean league. I used to go to see Deportes Concepción play around this time, a team I had a vague interest for, but from 1999 onwards my attention shifted to Fernandez Vial. Fernandez Vial were a team that were always on the verge of going up to the first division, but got beaten in the last moment. They were the team with most support, too - they were the populist team for the working classes. All the other Concepción teams are inorganic and false (most people in cities which aren't from Santiago support the three main teams from Santiago).

While I was a ferocious football fanatic, I also kept quite a keen interest in books... I read the standard thing 9-year-olds read: Roahl Dahl and a few others... From the ages of 7-13 I read cartoonist Themo Lobos who, to my astonishment stayed at my house. I really enjoyed the five volumes of Cucalón - a compendium of all his work. I also read Barrabases, which I also really liked, and Condorito. I wrote two short stories around this age, and I submitted them in the school contests and they both won (though I had the advantage of been more fluent than the rest of the students in English). They were really creative; the best of the two involves a young boy called Tommy who travels to another dimension with Galileo and all sorts of unusual things happened.

Around the age of 10 I got into music, and for my tenth birthday party I got Load by Metallica. I listened to most of the bland, boring so-called 'alternative' music from the mainstream from the ages of 10 to 13. I would also create imaginary albums and imaginary music in my head.

At the age of 11 my family moved to England, which was a huge blow at the time (and still is to a certain extent). In my final year in Chile I was at the most extroverted I'd ever been; I designed all sorts of interesting games for my peers to play, and we even formed a strange religion... But England proved to be a giant blow: for the next couple of years following my arrival I immersed myself in nothing but lethargy...

When I was 13-years-old I stumbled across a copy of Trout Mask Replica by Captain Beefheart, and there came my first encounter with the avant-garde - the prevailing obsession that continues to dominate my mind to this day. When I was 14 I went on my first visit to Chile in 3 years - I had completely forgotten about it, and had become accustomed to life in England. Around the time I was there, my uncle-in-law's mother died, and there was an overwhelming aura of sombre pessimism while I was there. I travelled there without my parents, and it was then when I matured considerably. The whole world changed colour.

Around the age of 15 I mainly spent my time listening to Frank Zappa, and from then on discovered the world of jazz, classical, death metal and so on... I have also fond memories of my first concert around this time: The Magic Band. When I was 15 I started truanting, and also discovered my adored 'remote edges' - I loved going to woods and the countryside, which I found far more educational than school.

I failed my GCSEs when I turned 16, and it was around this time when my world would take a completely new turn and where I developed the current personality and opinions I have now... It was around this period when I started having 'issues'. Also, the most important thing to me right now was also discovered then: literature. I read all the modern classics voraciously and relentlessly as well as a keen interest in Latin American fiction. In christmas eve I had an incredible fight with my parents, and I started reading Julio Cortázar's Rayuela. Then came 2007 which turned out to be the best and worst year of my life where I was constantly exhilarated, infuriated and occupied. I described myself like this at the time:

I am an angry, reclusive 17-year-old who's detached from reality. I was born in Chile and I live in Sheffield, UK. I no longer socialise and I dropped out from college, meaning that I have a bleak future ahead of me. I have a very strong interest for the dense and the abrasive. I write fiction, spend a ridiculous amount of time hearing music, read books, stay up all night, go for adventurous walks, scream at my parents, have an obsession for Mark E. Smith, drink coca-cola, wank, and have a strong penchant for dreaming.

Around November 2007 everything of this time reached its culmination. I had strange sort of epiphany documented in my old blog which I deleted... I reached an 'answer' to all my problems, but all got out of control after staying up for 3 nights and I had a psychotic episode. This consisted of constant, racing thoughts and delusional beliefs and, at its worst moments, hallucinations. I won't into detail about my psychosis right now. I ended up in a psychiatric ward in Chesterfield, but I was in such a bad state that they had to send me to an intensive care unit (a PICU) in Derby. This was incredibly an incredibly constraining place (indeed, during the beginning of my residence there I was convinced I was going to die). But I met some incredibly strange people, and there was a resolution when I was discharged from the ward in Derby.

After I got discharged, I continued my reading endeavours (my writing I couldn't get off the ground, and I had to wait an entire year before I did anything about this). But, overall, in the months leading up to me entering college to do A-levels, I felt pretty bored and somewhat disillusioned. I did phenomenally well at AS - I got AAB, and I'm currently doing A2. I'm also hoping to obtain a third A by doing Spanish at another college. I'm hoping to study philosophy at university, with my highest priority being UCL despite having a small likelihood of getting a place there... I'm taking time out next year, where I hope to start two novels and I'm saving up money (I have about £500 now) for a trip to chile which will consist of going to the most northern city of the country, Arica, to the most southern - Puerto Williams. It's as long as Russia, and in the north I will go across the driest desert in the world and my trip will end with the town closest to the South Pole. I'm hoping to go on my own unless I acquire a girlfriend who can keep me company and have sex with me.

Favourite paintings

Here is a selection of my favourite paintings. I approach this art-form, for the most part, on a gut level and have little knowledge of its rudiments or its history. Maybe as I get older I'll begin to develop more of a knowledge of it, but for now here is my selection of favourite paintings at this moment in time.........

Woman III - Willem De Kooning

I have a page torn out of a book of this painting displayed on my bedroom wall. This is also, incidentally, the second most expensive painting of all time!


Four Girls on a Bridge - Edvard Munch

A lesser-known Munch work... I saw this in Cologne and bought a small postcard-sized print of it to put on my wall.

The Garden of Earhthly Delights - Hieronymus Bosch

I have a large print of this in my room, and I often stop and marvel at it. There is so much going on in this painting it's unbelievable.

Dusk - Claude Monet

I have a print of this in my room. It's lovely.

Yellow and Blue - Mark Rhothko

Simple but effective. I have a calender of Rhothko painting in my room, and this is one of them.

The Perpignan Railway Station - Salvador Dali

I saw this at the Ludwig museum in Cologne, and it was really impressive and... large.


The Adaptation of St. Anthony - Hieronymus Bosch

You don't get that good an insight into a Bosch painting at this size and from a distance...

Retrat IV - Joan Miro

My parents have this in the dining room, and I really like it. I have been seeing it practically every day since I was 8.
The Scream - Edvard Munch

You all know this one.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Thoughts on identities

Attachment

People will always attach themselves to something. If one doesn't do this, one feels insecure. A person will attach oneself to a particular identity to keep thwarting this insecurity. This attachment is applied to a wide range of activities that this identity encompasses.

Political ideologies

One of the attachments a person will go for is a political ideology. Again, this is done a lot of the time to fulfil one's insecurity and ego rather than any firm beliefs... A political ideology, a lot of the time, is basically a gross generalisation of what you are. You might have a lot of tendencies, but these will rarely manifest themselves as they are prevented by this ideology and belief. There will always be fights and arguments, and a political group will always be polarised because there is a disagreement due to an individal's lack of conformity and relation to the identity.

Social groups

No matter how sophisticated or philistine, a social group generally works on the same level: its members attach themselves to it and identifies itself with it. The personality of the individual is rarely recognised in favour of generalisations of what symbolises what. People's true thoughts are often repressed to conform to this social gathering. The school playground is a microcosmic example of everything social groups represent: a multitude divided into separate parts were the true individual is left aside due his negligence to identify himself with the prevailing norm.

Envy and prejudice

When someone is part of an identity that person will either envy other social groups or have feelings of prejudice over people they consider to be inferior to themselves. Prejudice is a feeling of wrongly preconceived notions people have wrongly deduced about another person due to their identity. Because an identity symbolises and carries an aura of someone, the other person will often have feelings of hatred against this identity - not the person itself. This can often be racial or related to religion or several other reasons.


Musical identity

People often think that their musical preferences are a true representation of what they are. This is especially true in the playground: the subdivided groups are often there because of the sounds that groups opt for rather than a similarity between the individuals. Also, music is also prostituted as a visual rather than auditory experience, and people will identify themselves with the visual aura of whatever product.

Extremes

Identities can often lead to extremes. This is often evident in fascism, where people will exert a strong feel of hatred over a group because their identity is inexplicably repulsive to them. Extremes in the social spectrum are examples of how people will attach themselves to an identity because their malicious anger cannot be exerted in any other way: if it isn't exerted via this identity, they feel insecure and unfulfilled.

My identity

One of the main reasons I have these thoughts is because I don't have an identity. I don't have a nationality, and I have been often ostracized from social groups. I am neither Chilean nor British, and I refuse to subject my thoughts to either left-wing right-wing politics. Since childhood I have been solitary and have even found the comforting categorisation of 'loner' disagreeable and inapplicable. My lack of identity is what often causes many dilemmas for me, and brings me many confrontations...