Wednesday, September 12, 2007

El Jugador by Fiódor Dostoyevski

Yes, I (attempted to) read a Spanish translation of a Russian author who I have difficulty reading in English. I'm sure I missed a lot, but I just love Dostoyevsky. Even when struggling through this in Spanish, I still developed a very personal relationship with the protagonists and felt like I was gambling away life savings at the roulette wheel. I also developed a new lack of appreciation to roulette. I hope to never play that game.

Completed: Mid September

The Rough Guide to Argentina by many many authors

Though not a quick read or something anyone should read unless traveling to Argentina, I figured that I put in so many countless hours (much like with my GMAT books) going back and forth through every page of this book that I might as well give my thoughts on it. While traveling in or to Argentina, I spent over 40 hours on airplanes or in airports and 70 hours in buses or bus terminals. I did all my reading of this book while waiting.

I think this is one of the better travel guides you are going to find on the market, exclusively on Argentina. Compared to the Lonely Planet Guide--the king of travel guide companies--this book is much larger and thus has much more information to offer. Additionally, I feel this book is aimed more at people looking for an adventure. While the Lonely Planet Guide may recommend only flying to a certain destination because busing would be long and unsafe, the Rough Guide would suggest hitchhiking as a realistic alternative. I like the books that don't treat me like a helpless 13 year old girl from suburbia (I don't blame the Lonely Planet for focusing on this demographic because many travelers could fall in the same category as our 13 year old friend).

If you are going to Argentina and looking for adventure and lots of info, I'd recommend this book. However, I couldn't find a real new edition of this book, so my 2005 edition was already out of date when it came to prices and other ever changing information (museum hours, penguin migratory patterns). Additionally, this book doesn't cover all places and all cities, but what then would be the purpose of travel?

Completed: Early September

Fervor de Buenos Aires by Jorge Luis Borges

After Márquez, I switched gears to Jorge Luis Borges. Though a citizen of the world, Borges claimed to be 100% porteno (from Buenos Aires), and his adoration towards the city is clearly evident in this book of poems. Written at the age of just 24 (I'm 24. I should write Fervor de Minneapolis), Borges wrote these poems about the city after moving away and realizing his true love for the city.

I read this book on a bus riding through the Patagonia, roughly 3 days after leaving Buenos Aires. Before reading this book, I really liked Buenos Aires. After going through these poems, I feel like Buenos Aires is one of the greatest cities in the world. This book made me so infatuated with the city, I shorten my time in Patagonia, giving myself time to return to Buenos Aires to spend another day there, wandering the streets and understanding the stanzas of Borges.

I typically do not read much poetry, but this book of poems took control of me. I read each poem multiple times, and some I must have read a dozen times. He so well captures the essence of the city, I feel as if I'm standing with him in the street, inhaling the dusty air. I cannot wait to go through these poems again, but with a Spanish-English dictionary. If I could enjoy them so much without understanding all the words, I'm optimistic I'll find even more excitement towards the city with a stronger comprehension of the words.

Completed: Early September

El Coronel no Tiene quien le Escriba by Gabriel García Márquez

While on a trip to Argentina, I gained an intense fascination towards Latin American culture and literature. As a denizen of the United States, I admit that I sometimes fall victim to forgetting that 100s of millions of people live south of our border, people who don't need the inspiration of the United States to create a unique, beautiful culture. Inspired to expand my breadth of knowledge on this culture that I was experiencing first hand and eager to improve my Spanish vocabulary, I decided to purchase some Latin American classics that weren't readily available in an English version.

To fulfill these objectives, I purchased an early work from the famous Colombian author Gabriel Márquez. El Coronel is a short novel of Márquez which tells the story of an old, retired Colonel, broke and living in poverty while supporting a desperate wife, waiting to receive his pension. The pension never comes, and the Colonel realizes he lived a miserable life.

I admit that at times I had difficulty following this book, my language abilities just aren't strong enough to easily read a Spanish language novel without a dictionary. Márquez definitely writes with a larger vocabulary than just about any Spanish language magazine (this should be a given). I ultimately read this book twice to fully comprehend it.

As for a recommendation, I enjoyed it (when I fully comprehended what I was reading). Unless you are a good Spanish speaker, I'd recommend finding a translated copy.

Completed: End of August