Every now and then you come across a book that treats you different from the rest, and is that difference that drags you to that special (and familiar) area you enter when reading words that remind you how wonderful, enjoyable and enlightening Literature can be. Among Strange Victims is one of those rare and yet familiar books. Saldaña París delivers a sardonic and incredibly funny polyphonic story in which characters -captive in tedious and meaningless urban lives- start suddenly facing rather bizarre situations. Hypnosis sessions inducted with tequila mixed in mystical teen’s urine, unintentional marriages and virtuous chickens take the existentialism crisis into a whole new and hilarious level. Bolaño’s punchy prose and Houllebecq’s acid criticism turn out to be the ideal travel companions during this trip.
Park trailer tenants blowing all their food stamp allowance in one lobster meal, urban guardians that preach the benefit of school to youngsters while rolling joints in their shared rooms, nurses addicted to painkillers with licenses revoked but still caring for others, and the people that make a nice living thanks to all that. These are the characters you’ll find in Evicted, a gruesome portrait of poverty in America which helps understand that homelessness, as most things related to our society, is more complex and related to us than we think. The poverty, the system that allows and perpetuates it and the market and opportunities around all this mess, is what Matthew Desmond masterfully depicts in one of the toughest and most pertinent journalism books I’ve read in years. Because more often than you think, there is only a back surgery procedure between you and that guy by the traffic light.
Spain, a country that has gone under different and turbulent periods during the last century, always have suffered to take itself seriously and claim its position in the European scenario. The last part of this complicated puzzle was placed after the big 2008 economical crash, where Spain, one of the most inflated real estate market in the world, collapsed in a recession without precedents in recent history. Chirbes captures some of the subtle human reasons and consequences of this new episode of Spain´s struggle to conciliate past, present and future, with characters that are both victims and perpetrators of this sordid scenario. On the Shore is considered one of the best Spanish literary works of the last decade.
“I was raped when I was six years old. I got confined in a psychiatric hospital. I was a drug addict and an alcoholic. I tried to commit suicide five times. I lost my child custody. But I am not going to talk about that. I am going to talk about music. Because Bach saved my life. And I love to be alive.”
Submission, Houellebecq´s most controversial novel so far, satirical and incredibly funny, envisions the 2022 France presidential elections led by the Muslim party, a probably unlikely but possible scenario. His main character, Francois, an intellectual Sorbonne lecturer with a sophisticated food taste, lascivious sexual inclinations and high drinking needs, witnesses how our venerated western society adapts to the drastic cultural switch. During the inconceivable process, he´ll start wondering whether we all prefer to offer submission in the end -despite our values and intellectual decisions, or maybe western culture is simply doomed anyway.
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