German anarchist Rudolf Rocker’s (1873-1958) little-known novel, Die Sechs (1938: The Six) is a philosophical allegory about a great and mysterious black marble Sphinx that stands in a desert. Six roads from widely separated lands converge on the desert sands; along these roads travel six well-known characters from world literature: Faust, Don Juan, Hamlet, Don Quixote, Medardus the Monk (from E.T.A. Hoffmann), and the bard Heinrich von Ofterdingen. The character of each is described individually (in the words of their creators) before meeting at the end to solve the ancient riddle of the Sphinx.
A modern re-telling of Dumas’s epic tale of suffering and retribution. The rivetting melodrama of a latter-day anarchist Count of Monte Cristo, Cristóbal Pinzón, a young Andalucian boy whose childhood is coloured by his father’s ruin and his family’s immiseration by three unscrupulous Englishmen and a Welshman (no Scotsmen, thankfully!). A lively page-turning but well-paced yarn of fraud, financial jiggery-pokery, revenge, radicalisation— and an illuminating romp through forty-odd years of Spanish and European culture and history from the fin de siècle to the opening shots of the Spanish Civil War. It is also about one man’s determination to bring about the social revolution by destroying capitalism from within — practically single-handedly! It was, after all, he, Cristóbal, who triggered the stock-market crash of 1929! A worthy comrade and contemporary of Farquhar McHarg!
I know nothing about the earlier or subsequent literary career of William Blake, but if THE WORLD IS MINE is anything to go by he was a fascinating character with a profound empathy and understanding of anarchist ideas and principles, at least as expressed through the actions and dialogue of his cultured, idealistic-yet-worldly Byronic protagonist, Cristóbal Pinzón, a cosmopolitan libertarian caped crusader given to deep philosophising, speaking in polysyllables, crisp ironic sentences, and plotting social revolution. Cristóbal’s fiscal high-jinks and complex schemes of spectacularly appropriate vengeance are remarkably plausible in detail; it is also a scathing indictment of Western civilisation, part of the story behind the Spanish Civil War and a handy vade mecum to capitalism and high culture. A rare classic, hard to put down; I wonder if Jeffrey Archer has discovered it yet?! — SC (Read Inside)
One hundred and ninety nine years ago, in an English country churchyard, a lady was laid to rest who enraptures the hearts of millions around the world today. She was only forty one years old, and had never married, though her thoughts were all of girls in love with love and getting wed; and from those thoughts she spun tales which still enchant us. The world of her words has the crystallised completeness of fairytale. The actual world in which she wrote was, of course, as messy as ours. And different though it was in many ways, in two absolutely fundamental respects nothing at all has changed: the division into ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’, and the careful ways in which the ‘haves’ portion out their concern for those less fortunate than them. … And so it is in reading stories. This book is dedicated to lovers of literature who have a thought to spare for the never-enough-considered undistinguished multitude who “keep those wheels a-turnin’.” This is the book about Jane Austen that you were looking for. Without presupposing any background, it takes the reader on a fascinating intellectual journey documenting the enormous contribution Austen has made to the genre of literary fiction. Carefully crafted and beautifully written, as far as books on literature go, this is a masterpiece. — LOOK INSIDE!
From the author of: THE GREAT DECEPTION. How Parliamentary Democracy Duped the Workers, Donovan Pedelty
In the lands of León, ringed by the high sierras, the snow-capped Cantabrian mountains and the Galician Massif, in the long dark nights, villagers sit around their log fires, spinning yarns — filandónes —watching the flames gutter and dance, finding pleasure in their glow, and in the reflected warmth of each others’ company.
This “Filandón is a collection of very short stories (by Juan Pedro Aparicio, Luis Mateo Díez and José María Merino) with parallel texts in Spanish and English, a format which makes learning either language so much easier than using a dictionary every few words. The filandón is a genre reborn midway through the twentieth century and currently booming in Latin America and Spain, and known, variously, as the micro-story, min-fiction or mini-tale – no one can decide on the most appropriate term, but it is a format distinguished for its brevity, dramatic intensity, experimentation, expressive concision, capacity for suggestion and formal autonomy typical of the literary Short Story.
“This brilliant collection of short stories from three contemporary Spanish writers has thrown the rulebook of realism away. The stories are very short, sometimes only a sentence long, but there is audacity and skill in the brevity. The writers use the ancient techniques of the fable to explore themes of science fiction and also to undertake some unsettling experiments with time and death. They show what can be done in a short space of time with stories honed down to the minimum so that the economy itself becomes a delight. Fate plays its part. Questions of shifting identity are raised. Philosophical conundrums present the reader with something to puzzle over The scale is big even if the narratives are small. And let us not forget humour There is dark mordant humour throughout. Surrealism is made to seem a normal state of affairs. There are echos of Borges, Calvino and even the short stories of Gogol but this does not preclude tales of everyday humanity: we have the story of the man who mourns the loss of his favourite soup when his local restaurant closes, the fireman who rescues a young woman and then becomes dissatisfied with his own wife; the traveller who returns to an unrecognisable hometown haunted by a sense of loss at the changes. Exhilarating and disturbing, there is always a refreshing sense of playfulness as well as some unexpected twists in the tales. The authors show no inhibitions about juggling with time and with physical scale so that we can be suddenly thrown into an Alice-In-Wonderland world. And best of all, in this day and age, when we rush from task to task, the stories are short enough to be read at a bus-stop, waiting at a check-out counter or even while the bath is running.” — Pauline Melville
BASTARDS DIE HARD (Les Salauds ont la vie dure) by André Héléna. Translated by Paul Sharkey.
In his 2011 book ‘The Pleasures of Crime: Reading Modern French Crime Fiction’ Professor David Platten, a lecturer in French literature and culture at the University of Leeds, looked at, among other French noir writers, André Héléna’s ‘Occupation’ novels from which we have taken the following extracts relating to Les Salauds ont la vie dure, which we have translated as ‘Bastards Die Hard’
“… In Héléna’s Les Salauds ont la vie dure, written shortly after the Liberation, the reader can still feel the heat of oppression and conflict as the main character literally blazes a trail across the country. Héléna’s peripatetic writing existence — he moved frequently from Narbonne to Paris to Leucate, and back again — is reflected in the adventures of Maurice Delbar, hero of Les Salauds ont la vie dure is an outlaw and miscreant with very achy feet. What we read about the Occupation in these novels is funnelled through the perspective, not of a detective, but of a young, mid-ranking gangster from Pigalle, the traditional red-light district of Paris adjoining Montmartre, which is known locally as La Butte, traditional home not only of the French chanson but also of the Parisian gangster.