Showing posts with label Spanish Language. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Spanish Language. Show all posts

Friday, April 8, 2011

Friday to Friday: Historical Fiction and Leonardo Padura Fuentes

So how was your week? Mine is finally done! It's still rainy and cold in Jersey, but at least I'm home cozy and warm at the moment. I had a long working-week, but it turned out to be good with one book-related event this last week and some really nice reads.

Last Friday night, as a last minute outing, my brothers invited me to go along with them to meet Leonardo Padura Fuentes, a favorite author, in an evening at the Instituto Cervantes New York at Amster Yard in New York City. Mr. Padura was hosting a chat where he was discussing history and fiction in his latest release, the literary historical fiction novel El Hombre Que Amaba a Los Perros -- you might have seen that book mentioned here before. I've also mentioned my favorite works by him to date, the Inspector Mario Conde series.

It was an informal chat where basically he explained the process used while researching the novel, although he did address the fictional part of the book briefly. However, most of the evening was taken up with questions and answers about Trotsky's fascinating character, as well as that of his assassin, Rafael Mercader.

The key points for me came when he focused on how to pull together all that historical research he gathered throughout five long years and put together a fictional novel.  His points:

  • Respect historical moments when writing the fictional aspect of the story. 
  • Construct fiction as logically as possible while combining it with history. 
  • Characterization is key, especially that of the fictional characters in the book. In El Hombre Que Amaba a Los Perros that would be Ivan, a seemingly insignificant secondary character, but the very important narrator of the story.
  • Take into consideration that in a historical fiction novel there is no mystery as the end is usually well known. 
  • The narrative, making it fast paced and constructing the plot into a novel instead of a historical piece, is key.

Mr. Padura was quite gracious and the question and answer session, where not only this book but his other works were discussed, lasted quite a long time, and he and his beautiful wife gave of their time afterward as well. I took the opportunity to speak to him personally and he signed my book. Meeting him was an unexpected pleasure. 

About the Author: Leonardo Padura was born in 1955 in Havana and lives in Cuba. He is a journalist and writer of novels and essays, as well as screenplays. His literary works include a number of short-story collections, literary essays and nine novels translated into over 15 different languages but international fame came with the Havana Quartet, all featuring Inspector Mario Conde.

The Inspector Mario Conde Series:
  • Pasado perfecto (1991). Havana Blue (2007)
  • Vientos de cuaresma (1994). Havana Gold (2008)
  • Mascaras (1997). Havana Red (2005)
  • Paisaje de otoño (1998). Havana Black (2006)
  • La Neblina de Ayer. Havana Fever (2009)
  • Adiós Hemingway (2005, novella); published with same title in English in 2006 - the first of his books to be translated into English.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A thought on nostalgia vs. reality... and Pasado Perfecto by Leonardo Padura

As I began reading Pasado Perfecto by Leonardo Padura, almost immediately I came across a passage that caught my attention:

Se puso los espejuelos oscuros y caminó hacia la parada de la guagua pensando que el aspecto del barrio debía de ser como el suyo: una especie de paisaje después de una batalla casi devastadora, y sintió que algo se resentía en su memoria más afectiva. La realidad visible de la Calzada contrastaba con la imagen almibarada del recuerdo de aquella misma calle, una imagen que había llegado a preguntarse si en verdad era real, si la heredaba de la nostalgia histórica de los cuentos de su abuelo o simplemente la habia inventado para tranquilizar al pasado.

Translation: (done by me: any errors found are mine)
He put on his sunglasses and walked to the bus stop, thinking that the neighborhood looked a lot like him: like a landscape after a devastating battle, and something became offended in his most affective memory. The visible reality of the Calzada contrasted with the sweet, syrupy images he remembered of that same street, and he asked himself if that image was a real one, if he had inherited it from his grandfather's historical and nostalgic tales, or if he had simply invented them to calm the past.

Yes, I thought when I read el Conde's reflection about his neighborhood and the street where he grew up, that's exactly right. How often do we change the past to suit our needs? How often do our memories deceive us when nostalgia takes over to make places, things, or events, beautiful, right, or acceptable when in reality they were not?

Such a shocking thing, to deal with stark reality and see that street for what it really is... for what it probably always was -- except maybe in fantasy-filled memories or those glorious moments of self-deception that often come with nostalgia.  Pasado Perfecto... "a perfect past."