By Fernando Sdrigotti, Contributing Editor
I am a chaotic reader and I tend to read anything up to ten books at a time. I generally mix genres and languages and I don’t follow any clear logic when it comes to choosing books. I’m happy to drop a book after a few pages if it turns out that I don’t get hooked by it – I have only one life to live and I rather do something more interesting than struggling to finish a boring title. I’m still working my way through a backlog of stuff that I’ve been reading over the past months (mostly North American literature and philosophy). But I’ve already separated some new titles to read over the coming months.
I’m quite exited about a gem called In Spite of Blasphemy, an autobiography by Michel Mourre. Mourre was one of the proto-Lettrists who got involved in the Notre Dame affair. After doing some time in mental institutions he became a priest – a fascinating and coherent journey that I hope this book will open up for me. I miraculously bumped into an English first-edition of this title in a charity shop in Paris, of all places. Somehow linked to this one, through the Situationist connexion, I’ve got lined up a copy of Young Adam by Alexander Trocchi. I’ve never read any of Trocchi’s work before, but I’ve heard great things about this one and Cain’s Book. Some heroin addicts write good literature. But it isn’t advisable to get into skag just to write good books.
Another one I’m really looking forward to reading is Stupidity by Avital Ronell. This is a philosophical text that traces the history and evolution of this quite commonsensical – and therefore unexplored – idea. We tend to use the term “stupidity” a lot, but it’s very hard to pin down what it means from a philosophical point of view. I’m interested about the idea of stupidity for many reasons and I thought this book would be a perfect read for this World Cup summer.
As I write a lot about urban space I generally end up reading about cities/place. Enters Nights in the Big City by Joachim Schlör. This book is part of one of my favourite collections, Topographics, by one of my favourite publishers, Reaktion Books. Nights in the the Big City explores our perception of nocturnal London, Berlin, and Paris. Another one of my favourite publishers, Influx Press, kindly sent me a copy of their Acquired for Development By… A Hackney Anthology. It will come really handy to help me understand why the borough in which I’ve spent the last 12 years of my life is doing everything in its hands to expel me. Total gentrification of the heart…
I am also looking forward to reading a few titles in Spanish. Although I’ve already read all of Cortázar’s work, and although it’s a cliché for Argentine “intellectuals” to defenestrate him, I’m anxious to start reading his Papeles inesperados, a compilation of unedited manuscripts and notes. Also by an Argentine writer, I’ve got a copy of the recently edited Aguafuertes cariocas, by Roberto Artl. This book is a collection of the chronicles that Artl wrote about Rio de Janeiro in the 1930s. One last book in Spanish: Néstor Sanchez’s El amhor, los orsinis y la muerte. Sánchez was one of the most promising Argentine writers of the 1960s, then he disappeared from the scene, became a tramp in New York, and died in poverty in Buenos Aires in 2003. His prose is very hard to crack, and his ideas very complex, sometimes borderline esoteric, or just very odd.
One final book in this summer reading list is The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño. Yes, I could read it in Spanish but I’ve decided to read it in English, mainly to be able to chat about it with a couple of English friends who are reading it right now. Bolaño is one of Chile’s most fascinating exports. The Savage Detectives is a Latin American experiment a la Sebald, with narrative providing the excuse to write mostly about everything, from literature to political history. I haven’t read it yet, so don’t expect me to write coherently about it. If I like it in English I will read it in Spanish next summer. Or not. Maybe I’ll read it in Portuguese.
First posted: Friday, July 4th, 2014.