The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll PDF/EPUB

The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll All is a tale told, if not by an idiot, at least by a dreamer but it is far from signifying nothing so says G Santayana about nature everything And John Berger speaking w S Sontag, A story is always a rescuing operation This A Mutis Maqroll el Gaviero is a dreamer and a doer of high sea adventure not an idiot savant on a sappy horse chasing windmills signifying nothing and all seven of el Gaviero s tall tales rescue his ghost assail at his side just beyond oblivion, waiting p All is a tale told, if not by an idiot, at least by a dreamer but it is far from signifying nothing so says G Santayana about nature everything And John Berger speaking w S Sontag, A story is always a rescuing operation This A Mutis Maqroll el Gaviero is a dreamer and a doer of high sea adventure not an idiot savant on a sappy horse chasing windmills signifying nothing and all seven of el Gaviero s tall tales rescue his ghost assail at his side just beyond oblivion, waiting patiently for the fateful slipup to take him down below the ocean of memory s deep abide La Vigie Maqroll, is indelible on my mind, another character speaking directly to me across time and page, knocking me about like waves in a storm, casting me ashore on a lonely island of myself to contemplate how a book can do so It s marvelous there are reviews which detail plot and character to be had here and elsewhere, I can do no better nor can I marshal a desire to do so this book means too much to me to pick it and put it in summary, it must be experienced raw and unguided My copy marked and scored will stare at me from its shelf spot and haunt me too like an avatar waiting for my return, and return I shall Shalom, for now, Gaviero P.S Not throwing shade what is this latest jargon, oh well get w times, eh at you DQ or Sanch or even you Roz., but it s just not apposite analogy to Maqroll they are two distinct characters even if they have trudged some common ground, slayed some same demons Sayin adieu This was fated to happen to me To me and nobody else Some things I ll never learn Their accumulated presence in one s life amounts to what fools call destiny Cold comfort Wheels within wheels, stories within stories The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll goes as a fabulous maelstrom of misfortune Sinbad the Sailor of the Arabian Nights meets the Wandering Jew of the medieval folklore Life attacks us like a blind beast It swallows up time, the years of our life, it passes like a ty This was fated to happen to me To me and nobody else Some things I ll never learn Their accumulated presence in one s life amounts to what fools call destiny Cold comfort Wheels within wheels, stories within stories The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll goes as a fabulous maelstrom of misfortune Sinbad the Sailor of the Arabian Nights meets the Wandering Jew of the medieval folklore Life attacks us like a blind beast It swallows up time, the years of our life, it passes like a typhoon and leaves nothing behind Not even memory, because memory is made of the same swift, ungraspable substance out of which illusions emerge and then disappear Wanderlust and love are two propulsive forces that don t let Maqroll stay in one place, they don t allow him to have any rest and they carry him all around the world like dust blown by the wind A woman s body under the rush of a mountain waterfall, her brief cries of surprise and joy, the movement of her limbs in the rapid foam that carries red coffee berries, sugarcane pulp, insects struggling to escape the current this is exemplary happiness that surely never comes again Wherever one goes one seeks love I recommend this to no one No one Read your post moderns and your initialed ones Be cognoscenti Let this be my secret My adultery.I may have found the book to take on the getaway spaceship.Jesus, sweet Jesus, this was good Maqroll, O Maqroll.Who are you What are you You are the Gaviero The Lookout But that was when you were a boy, at the top of the mast, searching the horizons Since then you have been a wanderer.No one knows where you were born You speak many langua I recommend this to no one No one Read your post moderns and your initialed ones Be cognoscenti Let this be my secret My adultery.I may have found the book to take on the getaway spaceship.Jesus, sweet Jesus, this was good Maqroll, O Maqroll.Who are you What are you You are the Gaviero The Lookout But that was when you were a boy, at the top of the mast, searching the horizons Since then you have been a wanderer.No one knows where you were born You speak many languages with many accents Your Cypriot passport is suspect You have a serene acceptance of adversity and, as you say, a fatal tendency to interpret the law in my own way Your best friend said of you, He salone than anyone, andthan anyone else he needs the people who love him And, as it turns out, there are many Because this is long, with pages long paragraphs, and first written in Spanish, there are natural, reflexive thoughts of Quixote But this is not Quixote it is not a picaresque and not a satire And while there are adventures and travels, this is not a travelogue nor an adventure book Although, our eponymous adventurer does face some tough spots Enough to offer a remarkable prayer , a fragment which I offer here, because it tells much about what his story is For whom does Maqroll pray In the name of the vessels that sink their prows into the abyss and then surface and repeat the ordeal over and over againand at last, with a shifting cargo pounding their holds, sail wounded into the calm that follows the storm in the name of the knot of terror and fatigue in the throat of the machinist whose only knowledge of the sea is its blind assault on the sorrowfully creaking sides in the name of the song of the wind in the rigging of the derricks in the name of the vast constellations marking the route that the compass repeats with meticulous insistence in the name of the men on the third watch who murmur songs of forgetting and sorrow to keep back sleep in the names of the curlews flying away from the coast in closed formation and calling to console their young as they wait on the cliffs.in the name of the lookout I once was when I was still a boy, searching for islands that never appeared,announcing schools of fish that always escaped with an abrupt change of direction,weeping for my first love, whom I never saw again,enduring the bestial jokes of sailors in all the world s languages.O, there s , pagesin the name of a man who dreams of another man s woman while he paints minimum on a rusting hull in the name of the man who cried, whenever he got drunk enough to collapse onto a filthy tavern floor, I m not from around here and I don t look like anyone else in the name of those now at sea in the name of those who sail tomorrow in the name of those coming into port now, who don t know what awaits them in the name of those who have lived, suffered, wept, sung, loved, and died at sea.calm your anger and do not rage against me This is unlike anything I have ever read before It s too bad, maybe, that I have told everyone not to read this book because, in particular, I would be fascinated to read what female readers had to say about Mutis treatment of female characters It s varied, of course, because there are many characters But he doesn t condescend You can tell, of course, without having to have read the book in the original this is a superb translation There is an enveloping fatalism to this work, or at least to Maqroll, who says ultimately If it exists at all, the pity of the gods is indecipherable or comes to us when we breathe our last There is no way to free ourselves from their arbitrary tutelage Thankfully, no one actually reads this stuff So, Maqroll, my Maqroll, can be my little secret Amen. It is August, a warm sultry August An implacable heat hangs like a pall over the town, sapping energy from the veins, filming the skin with moisture, leaching purpose and efficiency out of my days to leave them washed in a colourless languid laziness.I read And for eight days I am transported in a flat keeled barge up the Xurand in search of an elusive and treacherous lumber factory in a freighter painted a furious yellow that is impounded by a bank consortium and leaves me stranded in Panam It is August, a warm sultry August An implacable heat hangs like a pall over the town, sapping energy from the veins, filming the skin with moisture, leaching purpose and efficiency out of my days to leave them washed in a colourless languid laziness.I read And for eight days I am transported in a flat keeled barge up the Xurand in search of an elusive and treacherous lumber factory in a freighter painted a furious yellow that is impounded by a bank consortium and leaves me stranded in Panama City on gruelling mule treks from La Plata up through the barrens to the Tambo in a doomed tramp steamer from Helsinki to Costa Rica, Jamaica and San Jos de Amacuro to gold mines in the Andes to Marseilles, Tripoli, Alexandria and Istanbul, to La Rochelle, Saint Malo, Southampton and Limassol To Djakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Ecuador.It feels like a defection I abandon my mundane existence where the week s excitement is remembering to put the wheelie bin out on the right day I m on a hallucinatory trip Stars wheel above me, I taste the clean bracing shock of an icy vodka, smell the putrefaction of rotting greenery, hear the lapping of water against the boat, the roar of the ocean, the crack of a revolver shot I have a strange, extraneous vision, nothing to do with the sea or the tropics I see a green forested mountain slowly turn over, stretch out, stand up, and walk away This whole set of stories keep shape shifting, transforming into metaphysical meditation instead of adventurous tale of risk taking subversion.Reading feels like betrayal It feels like an assignment with a lover For I would spendtime with Maqroll, if he would have me, for a while at least, for he is not a stayer but we could have a good time He is a man who people trust, although nothing is known of his background, family or nationality how he came by a Cypriot passport is questionable at the very least A man of integrity, although his undertakings are not always on the conventional side of legality A man of warmth and loyal friendship Multilingual A reader, for chrissake And one who sees women Really sees women.But Life often renders its accounts, and it is advisable not to ignore them They are a kind of bill presented to us so that we will not become lost deep in the world of dreams and fantasy, unable to find our way back to the warm, ordinary sequence of time where our destiny truly occurs So I must find my way back to the world of wheelie bins and reading the papers and watching the news, like grown up people do Here, in August, there are disturbing sea stories of people attempting the Mediterranean in vessels that are not seaworthy, there are people cast adrift and washed up on our shores, at our doors, wandering around on the browning grass outside the school gymnasium on the other side of the road where they are temporarily housed Help is needed Can I help Interpreting perhaps, that s something I could do But it s Arabic they need, or Croatian, do you speak Serbian at all No But they go swimming, you could translate the rules of the swimming pool into English for us No pushing, no shoving, no horseplay No diving in from the side Walk, don t run Welcome to Germany I didn t want to wait until I finished all seven hundred pages of this thing before I stuck my big toe into the waters of literary criticism That s the ostensible reason that I m beginning this review at the half way mark The real reason is that I can t be expected to remember my precious thoughts and feelings about the beginning of Maqroll three hundred fifty pages hence A wise old man who shall not presently be named once criticized The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll for I didn t want to wait until I finished all seven hundred pages of this thing before I stuck my big toe into the waters of literary criticism That s the ostensible reason that I m beginning this review at the half way mark The real reason is that I can t be expected to remember my precious thoughts and feelings about the beginning of Maqroll three hundred fifty pages hence A wise old man who shall not presently be named once criticized The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll for its overabundant description, particularly of nature And this is a valid albeit taste specific criticism lvaro Mutis has met neither flora nor fauna that he didn t give a thorough once over with his scrupulous descriptive powers In general, I could do without all this stuff I have an enthnocentric aversion to untamed wilderness and third world squalor alike, so to put it under an electron microscope and tease out its banal intricacies isn t really a selling point for me If you want to read blocks of Thoreauvian exposition on jungles and rivers and thatch roofed villages, then please consider this book a must read The book, as published by NYRB in English translation by the superb Edith Grossman who somewhat recently enlivened Don Quixote with a new translation , is actually a compilation of seven novellas about Maqroll the Lookout, an enigmatic wanderer who, seeking the meagerest subsistence, embarks upon various careers across the globe, some legal and some not Mutis fashions Maqroll decidedly as a self conscious free spirit which always sort of bothers me, as readers of my ramblings probably know who goes out of his way to reject the palliative life of the conventional workaday bourgeois drone This kind of thing usually gets my eyes rolling If you re just reacting to a kind of life, reflexively casting off all its trappings, you re as determined by it albeit inversely as the man who numbly aspires to it At any rate, the two misgivings I just described surprisingly haven t done much to diminish my enjoyment of Maqroll so far I ve read the first three novellas and a half of the fourth I don t think I ll be in the majority when I admit that the first The Snow of the Admiral , a woozy, feverish journey down a treacherous river, is my favorite Not all that much happens substantively in this novella and in this way it s different from the others but it is told directly from the perspective of Maqroll through his found journals as a kind of languorous reverie on life, death, and fate Maqroll has hitched a ride on a boat on a presumably South American river toward some mysterious sawmills from which he hopes to make money transporting lumber back down river It s pretty much a nonsensical get rich scheme, and Maqroll knows it, but he s too far invested in the mis adventure to give up On the way up to and back from the sawmill he survives a few brushes with death, including a delirious bout with a disease that he contracts from having sex with a smelly native woman She smells so bad that he vomits immediately after the act Not exactly romantic But the poetry of this novella lies not in the events or the descriptions of nature which, as always, are plentiful , but in the resigned melancholy of Maqroll s voice as he embarks upon another futile and dangerous journey A lot like life in general, of course.The second novella Ilona Comes with the Rain is aworldly tale, in which Maqroll encounters an old lover and business associate in Panama City Awaking from an interlude of indolence and fatigue, Maqroll and his partner Ilona decide to set up shop in Panama City Their entrepreneurial inspiration, or rather Ilona s, is to establish a high concept brothel in which the prostitutes will pose as flight attendants from major world airlines It s a big success, until Ilona starts getting emotionally involved with one of the prostitutes.The third novella Un Bel Morir finds Maqroll in a small desolate village somewhere implicated in a dangerous gun smuggling racket He signs up to move some large crates by mule to a difficult to reach outpost under the guise of railway construction materials ignorant of the fact that he is really supplying rebels with explosives and weapons All in all, I really enjoy the stories, whose poetry transcends the appeal of their narratives alone Again, you really do need to have a stomach for windy descriptions to tolerate this seven hundred page epic, but it s worth it so far But stay tuned I am nothing if not mercurial A beautiful and comic voyage of a book that at different times will evoke Heart of Darkness, Greek tragedy, Moby Dick, Sinbad s voyages, King Solomon s Mines, narratives of Proust and Nabokov, the rogue casts of Pynchon and Dickens, Don Quixote, Journey to the End of the Night, and Borges These seven novellas form one novel are filled with stories that are comically absurd, fraught with menace or existential doom, and or both at the same time The at times anachronistic feeling of the narrative A beautiful and comic voyage of a book that at different times will evoke Heart of Darkness, Greek tragedy, Moby Dick, Sinbad s voyages, King Solomon s Mines, narratives of Proust and Nabokov, the rogue casts of Pynchon and Dickens, Don Quixote, Journey to the End of the Night, and Borges These seven novellas form one novel are filled with stories that are comically absurd, fraught with menace or existential doom, and or both at the same time The at times anachronistic feeling of the narrative, mix with the timelessness of the themes in a very effective way, and its underworld setting of rotting ports, abandoned and deadly mines, steaming jungles, whorehouses, army outposts, and rusty tramp steamers with its cast of terrorists, suicides, dreamers, psychopaths, homicidal dwarfs, drug dealers, soldiers, and the blind, are an endless riot, Adventure stories fill with wide eyed wonder but wrapped in a dreamy melancholy with ontological concerns One of the great books of our time which I recommend wholeheartedly Half of this book strikes me as brilliant, half as a testament to wasted talent The brilliant bits can mostly be found in the earlier collection Maqroll, which comprises the first three of the seven novellas collected here The first of these, The Snow of the Admiral is easily the most potent, existing on another plane from the others entirely, and for this piece alone I give the book four stars A first person depiction, via a series of journal entries, of a sinister boat journey up a South Half of this book strikes me as brilliant, half as a testament to wasted talent The brilliant bits can mostly be found in the earlier collection Maqroll, which comprises the first three of the seven novellas collected here The first of these, The Snow of the Admiral is easily the most potent, existing on another plane from the others entirely, and for this piece alone I give the book four stars A first person depiction, via a series of journal entries, of a sinister boat journey up a South American river, this is exactly my cup of tea hallucinatory, intense, enthralling, completely convincing Mutis relates the genesis of this work in the introduction, telling of its evolution from a prose poem into a 300 page novel and back to the 100 pages we find here This hard work shows unfortunately, it also generates high expectations, which are not met by the other pieces In the second piece, Ilona Comes With the Rain , a lazier,expansive style takes hold, and despite some sharply wrought moments most of Un Bel Morir , parts of Amirbar , the hilarious first part of Abdul Bashur, Dreamer of Ships , doesn t really let go for the remainder of the book It s as if Mutis were becoming progressively drunker over the course of one of the sumptuous meals he takes such pleasure in describing indeed, by the last pages the characters seem to do littlethan eat and drink, despite that each story proclaims itself, in louder terms than the last, to be the most dramatic and life changing of all Apparently, after taking over 40 years to come up with one Maqroll novella he invented the character at age 19 and wrote The Snow of the Admiral at 63 , he then churned them out at a rate of one a year Why Money Obsession Fear True, Maqroll is a great character, the kind we miss when he s not around, and no matter how trite or sentimental Mutis s rendering of him he retains this spark of life to the end, but I for one found it painful to watch him drowning in the murk of Mutis s lazy storytelling RIP Maqroll you are already missed That said, I ll be laying hands on Mutis s earlier work stories and poems if and when it finally makes it back into print These stories are among my favorites ever, anywhere Maqroll the Gaviero the lookout leads a life of tireless wandering, always seeking fortune, always failing to find it due to unforeseeable obstacles and unfortunate occurrences, most of which nearly destroy him The constant stream of failures hardly seems to matter It is Maqroll s spiritual destiny to move through the most remote and desolate spaces that this planet has to offer Most often this involves amorous encounters with what can These stories are among my favorites ever, anywhere Maqroll the Gaviero the lookout leads a life of tireless wandering, always seeking fortune, always failing to find it due to unforeseeable obstacles and unfortunate occurrences, most of which nearly destroy him The constant stream of failures hardly seems to matter It is Maqroll s spiritual destiny to move through the most remote and desolate spaces that this planet has to offer Most often this involves amorous encounters with what can only be described as forces of nature in human form His continual descent is dream like, almost mystical the spiritual malaise that he becomes increasingly immersed in seems to give him strength as it were a continual purgation and refinement along the lines of the dark night of St John of the Cross The best literature writes itself, leaving the author baffled as to its sources I can only imagine that, to Alvaro Mutis, Maqroll appears to be at least as real as himself This New York Review Books edition contains seven linked novellas by the great Colombian poet and novelist lvaro Mutis I ll be posting a review of each novella as I move through the book Here is my review of the first three THE SNOW OF THE ADMIRALFor John Updike, The Snow of the Admiral is rendered so vividly as to furnish a metaphor for life as a colorful voyage to nowhere Maqroll the Gaviero our intrepid trekker The bulk of The Snows of the Admiral consists of a very personal diary w This New York Review Books edition contains seven linked novellas by the great Colombian poet and novelist lvaro Mutis I ll be posting a review of each novella as I move through the book Here is my review of the first three THE SNOW OF THE ADMIRALFor John Updike, The Snow of the Admiral is rendered so vividly as to furnish a metaphor for life as a colorful voyage to nowhere Maqroll the Gaviero our intrepid trekker The bulk of The Snows of the Admiral consists of a very personal diary written by the Gaviero the Lookout chronicling his journey up the Xurand River through jungle in a diesel powered barge Xurand , such an apt name for lvaro Mutis s fictional river since the sound and spelling blend in so well with a number of indigenous ian tribespeople the Xipaya, the Xiriana, the Txikao, the Kaxarari How much can a reader cherish Maqroll The Chilean poet Gonzalo Rojas threatened to sue Mr Mutis if he ever killed off his beloved character And lvaro Mutis himself spoke of Maqroll as if he were a living person After reading The Snow of the Admiral, the first of seven linked novellas forming The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll, I likewise treasure the Gaviero and plan to join him on all his other quests right to the final paragraph of this 700 page modern classic Such passion for literature, Gonzalo Rojas Likewise, John Updike, myself, and I m supremely confident many other readers hold a special place for author lvaro Mutis s colorful, lovable voyager There s also that fascinating story behind the publication of The Snow of the Admiral Back in 1986, the Columbian author, age 63, is editing one of his prose poems and realizes it wasn t a poem but a piece of a novel Then, with a sense of fatigue, Mr Mutis processed to write a prose narrative and send the manuscript to his Barcelona agent along with a note telling her I don t know what the devil this is She replied back informing him what he wrote was quite simply a wonderful novel And, give praise to the gods of literature, over the next five year, lvaro Mutis proceeded to write sixshort novels about Maqroll Quite a feat for an author who spent a forty five year career publishing not novels but poetry The New York Review Books edition of The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll is ideal in addition to all seven novellas published together in English for the first time as one book, also included is an informative introductory essay written by Francisco Goldman, himself a celebrated novelist and friend of the author In his Introduction, Mr Goldman relates the time when lvaro Mutis spent his entire two week vacation sitting in a garden reading a stack of Charles Dickens novels morning until night As Mr Mutis told Francisco Goldman directly A real influence is an author who communicates an energy and a great desire to tell a story And it isn t that you write like Dickens, but rather that when you read Dickens, you feel an imaginative energy which you use to your own ends Worth mentioning since many critics reading about Maqroll s tropical river journeys compare the author to Joseph Conrad but it is Charles Dickens who is the prime influence for lvaro Mutis.Turning to The Snow of the Admiral, I ll never forget in the first pages the narrator relating his purchase of a rare volume from a Barcelona secondhand bookstore only to notice tucked inside the back cover a diary written in tiny, cramped handwriting, a diary written by one Maqroll the Gaviero during his journey up a jungle river.Likewise, Maqrill s description of the captain as always semi inebriated from steady drinking that keeps him in a state of euphoria alternating with a drowsy stupor the mechanic, an Indian who speaks to the captain in a mixture of different languages the pilot who reminds Maqroll of a menacing character from Little Dorrit lvaro Mutis and his voracious reading of Charles Dickens Maqroll s fellow passenger, a calm blond giant speaking with a Slavic accent.Or, when one nightfall, after the barge s propeller hits a root, they re forced to pull up on a sandy beach and a family of beautiful, tall, naked natives with their hair cut in the shape of a helmet and their teeth filed to points appear unexpectedly And that night, Maqroll is aroused from a deep sleep by the Indian woman and shortly thereafter enters her and feels himself sinking into a bland, unresisting wax, all the time a putrid stench clinging to his body.And yet again the way in which Maqroll recalls his own recurrent failures and how he, at least in his own mind, keeps giving destiny the slip Also the Gaviero s recounting his various vivid dreams and fantasies along with establishing certain precepts, among which Everything we can say about death, everything we try to embroider around the subject, is sterile, entirely fruitless labor Wouldn t it be better just to be quiet and wait Don t ask that of humans They must have a profound need for doom perhaps they belong exclusively to its kingdom Then there are major episodes of the voyage, among which an old style Junker seaplane landing near the barge and the appearance of a stern major who immediately takes complete control, the illness of Maqroll himself and his report of the near death experience, the surprise encounter at Maqroll s destination far up the jungle river Butthan anything, the lush, poetic, intoxicating language, the full expanse of what it means to write sublime prose Obviously, all those year lvaro Mutis wrote his poetry exerted a profound influence on his writing his novellas To take but one spectacular sentence as an example I could discover that my true home is up there in the deep ravines where giant ferns sway, in the abandoned mine shafts and the damp, dense growth of the coffee plantings covered in the astonishing snow of their flowers or the red fiesta of their berries, in the groves of plantain trees, with their unspeakably soft trunks and the tender green of their reverent leaves so welcoming, so smooth in the rivers crashing down against the great sun warmed boulders, the delight of reptiles that use them for their lovemaking and their silent gatherings in the dizzying flocks of parrots that fly through the air, as noisy as a departing army, to settle in the tops of the tall cambulo trees After reading The Snow of the Admiral the name of a memorable eatery for Maqroll, by the way , I was inspired to come up with the following quote Great literature is the opium of the book reviewer I highly recommend joining Maqroll s trip upriver Completely addictive.ILONA COMES WITH THE RAIN Ilona llega con la lluvia This lvaro Mutis novella, the second in a series of seven forming The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll, could carry the subtitle A Tale of Freedom and Fate And thewe turn the pages, the deeper we dive into this tale, the progressivelygripping Since the storyline is simply too good and loaded with too many unexpected twists, I ll steer clear of plot and offer comments on the following people, places and things Frame The narrator, author of the six chapters we are about to read, recounts his many conversations with Maqroll wherein he would revisit key episodes of the Gaviero s tale again and again until they were fixed in his memory so he could write in a way that would allow our friend to speak directly to the reader One thing the narrator who might or might not be lvaro Mutis himself takes pains to make clear is the past and future held little consequence for Maqroll rather, the adventurer gave the impression his exclusive and absorbing purpose was to enrich the present with everything he happened upon To my mind, one of the glories of the human experience storytelling as enrichment.Globetrotting Gaviaro Our protagonist is an adventurer, a radical individualist, which ultimately boils down to life as a solo journey lovers and friends are embraced at the next port or on the next barge, but when it s time to move on, you travel alone If there is any one of the seven lvaro Mutis novellas placing Maqroll s wandering philosophy in bold capital letters, it is Ilona Comes with the Rain.Colorful Portrayals Maqroll looks out at the dock in Crist bal he s under the command of a luckless Captain of a dilapidated freighter painted the garish yellow of a yellow tailed parrot, a captain who is about to have his boat taken away and who goes by the name of Witto thin, of medium height with bushy brows covering his eyes, a man of slow, precise speech and who bares the mark of defeat, one with a secret emotional disorder who moves through life as if needing to hide a deep, painful psychic wound Reading lvaro Mutis is a literary feast characters, landscapes, city streets, everything described in vibrant, memorable detail.Panama City Once in this bustling metropolis, his first time ever, all blaring car horns and howling sirens, Maqroll knows in advance he ll never encounter anyone he will recognize All new faces just the way he likes it First off, after making arrangements at a not so rundown hotel, he locates an ideal bar, quiet, attentive but not overly talkative bartender and returns to his hotel room drunk that night.I ll never forget the Gaviero s shock the next morning at finding an enormous, naked black woman with Zulu warrior hair asleep beside him He gives her some money and kicks her out Ditto the next morning after yet again another drunken night at the bar, only this time she s a terrified bleach blonde No money exchanged, Maqroll simply kicks her out and goes down to pay a visit to the concierge He assures Maqroll it will never happen again The next week the rainy season hits like a tornado, turning the city streets into impossible to cross rivers Our adventurer hunkers down in his hotel room and reads Ah, books to the rescue Then it happens paying a visit to one of the city s casinos, he recognizes a past love the alluring, captivating Ilana.Ilona Tall, blonde, athletic, age forty five, spirited Ilona has a comparable sense of life as an ever expanding adventure Ilona the Vivacious and Maqroll the Gaviero quite a team their common adversary boredom and monotony Ilona and Maqroll have rousing success in Panama City a ton of loot and a ton of fun operating their new, creative business venture unique upscale house of prostitution But they reach a point, surprise, surprise, for restless adventurers, where an added infusion of energy is called for and they get what they re after in the form of a beauty with long jet black hair and mysterious past Larissa.The Fourth Dimension At this point lvaro Mutis kicks his tale into what some might term magical realism or the fantastic or the supernatural Gripping is understatement Maqroll is unhinged, as is Ilona she confides in the Gaviero Something in Larissa awakens my demons, those ominous signs in me that I learned to tame when I was a girl, to keep anesthetized so they don t come up to the surface and put an end to me Coda As noted above, this novella hits squarely on the philosophical dimensions of fate and freedom Good luck and bad luck could be added to the mix With Larissa the stakes are raised All of a sudden our two adventurers are caught in an episode of life and death A tale not to be missed.UN BEL MORIRThe third in a series of seven novellas forming The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll by the great Columbian author lvaro Mutis, the only one in the series not written in intimate first person.Why the switch in voice Maqroll is an older man in this tale a specific age is not given but one can infer the Gaviero is in his sixties Perhaps an objective third person narrator provides apanoramic lens, an opportunity to step back and view the arc of Maqroll s entire life from a distance.In similar spirit, perhaps also it is no coincidence Un Bel Morir returns to the landscapes of Maqroll s childhood in and around a river town near coffee plantations nestled in the Andes Mountains, a small town by the name of La Plata not the city south of Buenos Aires in Argentina This is a tale of high adventure, a thriller with a cast of colorful characters Here are several Do a Empera Blind old woman who runs the boardinghouse where Maqroll spends an entire two months lolling about, paying visits to the local tavern or in his room overlooking the gently murmuring, tobacco colored river where he occasionally reads about the life of Saint Francis of Assisi or from a two volume set containing letters of the Prince of Ligne On occasion the Gaviero will even read aloud to Do a Empera, a trusted and knowledgeable source of information on all matters relating to La Plata, including the young women who come down from the mountains to provide companionship for men.Anparo Maria Columbian Aphrodite with a stern, fierce Gypsy air, a lady of few, well chosen words who hungers for affection And she receives what she s after every time she pays a visit to the Gaviero Is it any surprise this sensual lovely and the aging adventurer form a bond of the heart At times Anparo Maria reminds Maqroll of Flor Est vez and at others Ilana Grabowska Readers will be familiar with Flor from The Snow of the Admiral Ilana from Ilana Comes with the Rain The Gaviero considers Anparo Maria a gift from the gods, in all likelihood at this point in his life, the last he will receive.Jan van Branden Over the course of several evenings between drinks down at the town tavern, this burly red bearded Belgium talks Maqroll into transporting equipment up a mountain as part of a railroad project The Galviaro smells a rat Is van Branden really Belgium Does he, in fact, have a background in engineering Are those crates loaded with railroad equipment or something highly illegal and maybe even dangerous He initially vacillates but ultimately surrenders and accepts the proposition Hey, the Gaviero might be old but he still has the fire of risk and adventure in his soul After all, sitting around the boardinghouse reading books to an old blind woman strikes him as a less appealing alternative He reflects The real tragedy of aging lay in the fact that an eternal boy still lives inside us, unaware of the passing of time The Helpers Rancher Don Anibal offers hospitality and seasoned advice as the Gaviero makes his way up the mountain There s danger around every bend Maqroll is joined by Zuro, a young man who proves an invaluable sidekick, an expert mule driver, desperately needed as mules are carrying the load On one trek up Zuro warns Maqroll, Be careful of your sleep senor, Se or You need to stay alive In the barrens altitude the exhaustion make you dream a lot It s not good for you You don t get your strength back, and they re never good dreams Just nightmares I know what I m talking about the foreigners who came to try mining all went crazy and tried to murder each other in the tavern or drowned themselves in the whirlpools in the river Men in Uniform The Gaviero usually has had to deal with both the police and the military at one point or the other during the misadventure part of his adventures Never a totally satisfying or pleasant experience but Maqroll knows the drill only too well either cooperate or in all likelihood lose your freedom or even your life On this mountain adventure it isn t any different He s seen it many times before He is brought before a Captain Segura who demands his orders be followed without exception and a Captain Ariza who demands he repeat his story over and over without deviating from the truth Follow orders Repeat the truth Fortunately Maqroll the Gaviero comes through as Maqroll the Gaviero a most satisfying reading experience.Lastly, permit me to underscore the sumptuous language and exquisite storytelling There s good reason fans of Maqroll cherish lvaro Mutis cycle of seven novellas And I m sure Un Bel Morir is high on the list.Special thanks to Goodreads friend Fionnuala for her engaging review of this book that inspired me to start reading Link to her review Colombian author lvaro Mutis, 1923 2013 Weather is a purely personal matter There is no such thing as a climate that is cold or hot, good or bad, healthy or unhealthy People take it upon themselves to create a fantasy in their imagination and call it weather There s only one climate in the world, but the message that nature sends is interpreted according to strictly personal, non transferable rules lvaro Mutis, The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll Maqroll the Gaviero the Lookout is one of the most alluring and memorable characters in the fiction of the last twenty five years His extravagant and hopeless undertakings, his brushes with the law and scrapes with death, and his enduring friendships and unlooked for love affairs make him a Don Quixote for our day, driven from one place to another by a restless and irregular quest for the absolute lvaro Mutis s seven dazzling chronicles of the adventures and misadventures of Maqroll have won him numerous honors and a passionately devoted readership throughout the world Here for the first time in English all these wonderful stories appear in a single volume in Edith Grossman s prize winning translation

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