No more love (Javier Marias, 2016)

“The older I get, the less certainty I have,” said Spanish writer Javier Marías in a recent interview. Almost exactly twenty years ago, after the publication of the translation of his novel My Heart So White, he had been discovered by more English-speaking countries. More than six million copies of his novels, stories and essays translated into 34 languages ​​have been sold across the world. Javier Marías, who celebrated his 65th birthday on 20 September, is anything but an easily consumable mainstream author. His often interlaced and cross-referenced novels are attributed in Spain to the Pensamiento literario – a kind of philosophical narration.

Now, for the first time, there is a representative selection of 30 stories from almost 50 years in a large anthology. The earliest story ( life and death of Marcelino Iturriaga ) dates from 1968 and is (despite the author’s youth) very sophisticated. The protagonist Marcelino Iturriaga reports almost emotionlessly about his own death and his unexciting life of only 35 years. Love, passion, disappointment, betrayal and death (often violent) are the fundamental building blocks in these texts.

Marías cultivates the surreal and artistic border crossings in his stories. Banal everyday events are mixed with fantastic inserts.Sometimes a little Edgar Allan Poe shimmers through between the lines. The band contains no less than three spooky ghost stories, as does the title story No Love , in which a young woman appears as a reader. When reading aloud, she suddenly encounters a ghost in the form of a peasant boy: “The young man immediately raised his index finger to his lips and indicated to her with reassuring hand gestures that she should continue and not betray his presence.”

No less scary is in some stories in which Marías plays with bonds from the world of crime thrillers. Often he sends his characters to the other world in a bizarre way – so in Lanzenblut , one of the most extensive lyrics of the volume. Right at the beginning we encounter two corpses pierced by lances in a bestial way. Javier Marías’ imagination knows no bounds. The author also goes into the emotional shoals of his characters. The result is situations that are as bizarre as they are oppressive – for example, when Elvis Presley’s Spanish teacher reaches for a pickaxe in self-defense or when a psychopathic man permanently films his young and highly attractive wife, because he wants to document part of their last day of life.

“In one of my novels I wrote: The moment comes when it is difficult to separate what you have read from what you have experienced.Both are experiences “, according to Marías’ artistic credo. And the readers are now enriched by the important experience that the important, often very extravagant and lengthy novelist Javier Marías masterfully masters the fast-paced literary short prose and knows how to tell exciting stories.

Javier Marías : No more love. Stories. Translated from Spanish

The Specter of Comparison

The Philippines at the Venice Biennale 2017

After returning to Venice in 2015 after over 50 years of absence, the country has already secured a place in the arsenal this year. It is the first position in the long series of national appearances following the grand main exhibition. Joselina Cruz presents works by Lani Maestro and Manuel Ocampo under the title “The Spectre of Comparisons”.

The title giving “Specrte of comparison” is a term from the 1887 published novel “Noli me tangere” by the Philippine author José Rizal. In it, the protagonist Crisostomo Ibarra sees the botanical gardens of Manila. At the same time, European gardens appear before his inner eye. In his experience, he can no longer separate one from the other and at the same time sees things that are near and those that are far away.

In a figurative sense, this also applies to the exhibiting artists. Both of them lived and worked outside the Philippines, but they have always been actively involved in their home country. Her works are manifestations of political and social remarks from a distance – “as if they had perceived events in the Philippines and in their adopted homelands through an inverted telescope” (Cruz).

Born in 1957, Lani Maestro has been living in Canada since she was 25 years old. A country that is commonly considered a paradise for emigrants, but in which there are also massive social problems. For example, in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, poverty, homelessness, prostitution, drug abuse and racial turmoil are part of everyday life. When Lani Maestro walked through this area for the first time, she was shocked by the prevailing conditions there. She processed this experience in the red glowing neon work “No Pain Like This Body” (2010/2017). The title was borrowed by Maestro from the eponymous novel by the writer Harold Sonny Ladoo (1972), a classic of Caribbean literature. Further works by Lani Maestro include the blue neon work “These Hands” as well as a wooden bench installation specially developed for the room.

In contrast to her quiet works are the paintings of Manuel Ocampo (born 1965). Rabid, anarchic, exuberant, disrespectful, brutal and provocative – without regard to losses, the painter comments on and criticizes colonialism and imperialism. Influenced by punk and cartoons, Ocampo combines in his pictures religious elements of the baroque with secular and political narratives. In the “Tortas imperiales”, composed of four paintings, he mixes art history and comic, politics and pornography into desolate, composition-laden compositions. Brutal also his portrayal of the “invention of abstract art – immigrant version”: in a kitchen, black butchers and cooks graze the bodies of two white corpses. A fast-paced, disturbing picture in which art-historical genres such as nude, still life, landscape painting and interior combine to form a complex narrative.

Translated from the German review by Sabine Vogel