Tag: Like a Fading Shadow

The Impostor by Javier Cercas

Posted July 10, 2018 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Historical Fiction / 4 Comments

The Impostor by Javier CercasTitle: The Impostor (Goodreads)
Author: Javier Cercas
Translator: Frank Wynne
Published: MacLehose Press, 2014
Pages: 430
Genres: Historical Fiction
My Copy: eBook

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindleWordery (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Longlisted for the Man Booker International Prize 2018

One of the problems I faced with reading the entire Man Booker International longlist is that the judges tended to pick similar types of books. This year there was a real focus on novels that blurred the line between fiction and memoir. This means that some of the picks felt too similar. Take for example, The Imposter by Javier Cercas (translated by Frank Wynne), which I read right after reading Like a Fading Shadow by Antonio Muñoz Molina which was translated by Camilo A. Ramirez. Both books seem to be a hybrid that deal with real historical events as well as the author’s life.

The Imposter is centred on Enric Marco, a man who claimed he was a prisoner in Nazi German concentration camps Mauthausen and Flossenbürg during World War II. He was awarded the Creu de Sant Jordi (one of the highest civil distinction awards) by the Catalan government, as well as writing a book about his experience. He even became the president of Spain’s leading Holocaust survivor movement. However, it was a lie, in which he responded by saying “I am an impostor, but not a fraud”. A decade later Javier Cercas is investigating Spanish history and then looks into the impact Enric Marco had on the world.

This is a look into human nature and self-deception, while a fascinating concept, this just fell flat for me. This was one of the books I was looking forward to reading on the longlist. The idea of digging yourself into such a lie fascinated me. I truly think I picked this one at the wrong time. It became a struggle to read and I am unable to tell if it was the book itself or the timing. Both The Imposter and Like a Fading Shadow just blended together completely.

I am really unsure if I will re-read this book at a future date, but it has made me rethink reading the Man Booker International longlist in the future. Ideally, I would have read a few of the books on the long list before it is announced. I am getting more and more into books in translations and I hope in 2019 when the longlist is announced I will already have some of the books crossed off. Have you had this experience before? For those who have read this one, is it just a case of bad timing? I am curious to know from others.


Like a Fading Shadow by Antonio Muñoz Molina

Posted May 16, 2018 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Historical Fiction / 4 Comments

Like a Fading Shadow by Antonio Muñoz MolinaTitle: Like a Fading Shadow (Goodreads)
Author: Antonio Muñoz Molina
Translator: Camilo A. Ramirez
Published: Tuskar Rock, 2017
Pages: 320
Genres: Historical Fiction
My Copy: Library Book

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindleWordery (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize 2018

In 1968, James Earl Ray evaded the authorities after shooting Martin Luther King Jr. by using a fake passport and making his way to Portugal. During his last days of freedom, he wanders around Lisbon rehearsing his fake identities. In Like a Fading Shadow, Antonio Muñoz Molina reconstructs Ray’s final days, but it is also a meditation on the city that also inspired his first novel A Winter in Lisbon. Turning this into a blend of historical fiction and memoir, Muñoz Molina’s tries to weave his own experiences in with that of a man on the FBI’s Most Wanted list.

Everything about this novel sounded so appealing from the premise but reading it was so difficult. First of all, I thought the idea of having the James Earl Ray narrative interwoven with that of Antonio Muñoz Molina’s did not work as well as the author might have hoped. In hindsight, it would have been better to just read A Winter in Lisbon and then search the internet about Earl Ray’s final days. Secondly, I felt like this book kept going in circles and never really progressing in any satisfactory way. Which is disappointing because I think this was one of the books on the Man Booker International Prize longlist that I was excited to read.

This is so disappointing, the idea to make a fictionalised account of what might have happened when James Earl Ray was in Portugal sounds amazing. I was fascinated that he was able to sneak across the border to Canada and use a fake passport to get to London and eventually make it all the way to Lisbon. He spent his time trying to get to Angola, which alone would have made for an interesting narrative; why is a pro-white supremacist trying to get to Africa? Then you have this memoir-like narrative of Antonio Muñoz Molina trying to write his first novel, A Winter in Lisbon. Separately this could be stimulating to explore the writer’s process and the emotions behind creating a novel. However, as a combination it ended up to be too little of each and together it never came together.

The Man Booker International Prize longlist has been focusing on narratives the blend fiction and non-fiction and I can see why this book was picked but I do not see the appeal for it to make the shortlist. I wanted to love this book; I went in with high expectations but I ended up struggling through this. Between this and The Imposters (which is very similar in many ways) I almost found myself in a reading slump. Thankfully Flights by Olga Tokarczuk was there to save me.


Distracted by Other Books

Posted May 1, 2018 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 2 Comments

My Thoughts and Reading in April 2018

Earlier in the month my wife was suffering from a major headache, so lying in the dark I decided to pick up my kindle to avoid disturbing her. I had The White Book on my Paperwhite and I knew it would not take me that long to read. Reading in the dark I was transfixed by the light of my Kindle. There is a line in the book that really stayed with me, “Certain objects appear white in the darkness. When darkness is imbued with even the faintest light…” There is something to be said about reading a book at the right time, because the experience alone made this book enjoyable. I love sitting in the dark but normally hate reading on my Kindle, the combination of darkness and talking about white just meshed well.

However that experience pales in comparison to reading The 7th Function of Language. Have you ever read a novel that you think has been tailor made for you? This was my experience with The 7th Function of Language. Everything about this book ticked my boxes, from the mystery element, to the literary criticism. I loved every minute reading this one and I cannot wait to re-reading it in the future. This reminds me of my favourite Umberto Eco book, Foucault’s Pendulum. I had to laugh at the fact so many people were calling this novel ‘too pretentious’ but others were comparing it to Dan Brown.

I often wonder if my literary tastes are the direct opposite to the norm, because I tend to love so many books others are regularly dismissed. Not that I mind at all. It helps with my pretentious literary credibility. Although I think The 7th Function of Language is not pretentious and would make for an exciting audiobook. I have not read hhHh but after reading this one, I am keen to find a copy. Although that novel is more war based, I am still very curious. It did get a lot of hype and attention, which might mean I will be disappointed by the novel.

This month marked the start of my very own podcast, Lost in Translations. My wife and I have been planning this for a very long time and by planning I mean procrastinating. But this we finally released the first episode which is an introduction episode. I was very nervous but beyond thrilled with just how well it turned out. I am surprised how much support I got on a project that has just launched. I am looking forward to releasing the first official episode where we discuss a book I loved last year (no spoilers into what it will be). My wife will be my first guest and while we have not recorded the episode yet, I hope to have it release in the middle of May.

I have loved reading the Man Booker International prize longlist and I am starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, especially after finishing Like a Fading Shadow and Vernon Subutex 1. It has been a bit of a letdown for me. There are so many books on the list that I thought were so-so but not much I loved, besides The 7th Function of Language, Frankenstein in Baghdad and Die, My Love. I will read the next Vernon Subutex book, and I did have a lot of fun reading it but it was not a standout. I am starting to be distracted by other books and itching to read other things. I am not married to the idea of completing the entire longlist but I thought it was a great opportunity to be part of the community. I am yet to read Go, Went, Gone and Flights, which are on my TBR, so they will get read. I am in the middle of The Imposters and have not brought a copy of The Flying Mountain. So that is four books from the longlist that I would love to complete but the only one I am positive I will read soon is Flights.

The BTBA longlist is looking very tempting.

I re-read Frankenstein again, I received a beautiful edition of the 1818 text and thought it was time to read again. I did use this as an excuse to write a piece on how Frankenstein has impacted my life. Surprisingly I think I learnt a little about myself writing that piece and I am always astounded by what I discover about myself while writing. I think there is something therapeutic about writing and it often unlocks connections I have not thought were there. Writing about Frankenstein helped me understand a little more about my past. That piece will be in the next issue of The Literati which is released very soon.

Finally I picked up The Diving Pool to read, which is the pick for a bookclub I am apart of on Goodreads. I love being a part of a Goodreads group reading books in translation, but not many people are interested in communicating. I love a good forum but I think maybe they have run their course. People join but quickly lose interest. I love the idea of talking about books, especially translations but maybe Goodreads groups are not the right spot. What is the future for the forum format? Is it Discord? Or maybe it is a Facebook group.

I feel like this month has been less productive than other months. Only six books read and hardly any writing getting done. I am happy to see my podcast become a reality so I should not complain. I have The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart on the go, which I need to read for my IRL bookclub but I have not planned what else I will be reading. I like to read on a whim and maybe the Man Booker International prize longlist messed with that and has put me into a little of a slump. Although I hope to break out in May and get back to all the books that keep distracting me throughout the month. We are housesitting so I do not have access to all my books, which might mean a little control but I hope it does not keep my slump going any further.

Read More