Sunday, March 16, 2008

Goncourt 1969

AOG, Madrid

Today was one of those sunny Winter days for which Madrid is world famous. After saying goodbye to my partner, I had a Sunday afternoon to kill.

I took a train to Atocha station and walked towards Retiro Park. Once there, the lure of second-hand books (see previous post) was much too tempting.

I spent about an hour shifting through never-heard-of titles as well as a few known ones. I was in the mood for some Latin American literature, and the shops did not disappoint.

I was particularly interested in a couple of books by Cuban author Alejo Carpentier: Ecue-yamba-o! and The Kingdom of this World which belonged to a white leather literary collection with gold lettering which also included (amongst about 90 titles) Lezama Lima's Paradise (1966) and a couple of books by Vargas Llosa. As attractive as they were, they shared one thing which I did not really care for. the price: 10 Euros a piece.

For a second-hand book.

So I looked on, partially scared-off because of the price, and the prospect of adding two more books to my ever-expanding collection of books I never have enough time to read- which is huge.

On that topic, Spanish über author Javier Marías wrote a column a few months ago in El País where he mused about his book collection. It too is probably quite large. He was rather miffed that a visitor to his library had asked if he had read all the books in it. Of course he had! he was surprised at the question. I was surprised at the answer.

Since my youth, I have been an avid book buyer, and an avid reader. However, there just aren't enough hours in my day to read all the books I've bought. Nor all the magazines I own, or all the papers I purchase daily cover to cover.

When I was at University, I remember exchanging opinions with one of my fellow classmates on graduation day. She said something like "Maybe now I'll have time to read all the titles on the reading list!" Oh how we laughed....

But she was right. Perhaps in other centuries, or other decades, time was more abundant, or life (of this I'm sure) went on at a slower pace.

So, for me, having read all the books I own is a bit of a task, a challenge, and an impossible dream. I'm sure I'll die not having finished off a few dozen novels.

Am I the only person who reads a 2-3 books at a time?

In any case, I opted not to buy these titles and walked off. As I reached the last stall, I was still peckish for literature. So I went back up, thinking perhaps I could dish out for Carpentier's books and maybe bargain.

However, before I got there, I found a book I was -at first- of two minds to get: Creezy, by Félicien Marceau.

I am no fan of translated-into-Spanish books and, wherever possible, I try to get an English translation.

But this time, two things made me change my mind: the price (1 Euro) and the words "Winner of the Prix Goncourt 1969". The Goncourt
is France's top literary honor and this, coupled with the date -1969, made me buy the book.

I also liked the Brown & Pink cover.

It appears to be typically French in this respect: The main character is this amazing model/it girl who makes this respectable Government high-ranking married man fall in love with her. The novel begins with its aftermath. He is shattered and reminisces over his affair with Creezy.
Just the sort of thing one never reads about in French novels, n'est ce pas?

The title alone is hilarious: Creezy. I don't know if Monsieur Marceau was aiming for a form of Chrissie or if in 1969 the English word "crazy" appeared to be ultra cool and modern, and hence, a good name for a character. Perhaps both? Perhaps just a pun of sorts?

In any case, the good thing is that this fading book, with its brown pages and stiff, almost carton-like paper, seems to be unread. The binding is immaculate.

For a pocket book, quite an achievement.

No comments: