Tag Archives: Small Stations Press

Los Ninos Tontos

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Los Ninos Tontos/The Foolish Children
By Ana Maria Matute
Small Stations Press – £7.99

With the discerning eye of an artist, Ana Maria Matute employs bright, bold tones or sometimes soft, impressionistic tints to express her profound pessimism with the Spain that Franco ruled. Possibly she hoped her stories would serve as a catalyst for change.

Throughout this angular, alternative book, lies an undercurrent of childlike, yet political darkness. The sort of which really is a prime preponderance to be reckoned with; reason being, it comes at you when you least expect it. That said, by the time one has reached the end of Los Ninos Tontos/The Foolish Children, authoress Ana Maria Matute’s literary moves remain just as equally foreboding and fraught with daring as at the outset.

In and of itself, this should come as no surprise, especially when one comes to terms with just how and where, many of these micro-fiction stories eventually pan out.

There are twenty-one in all (written in both Spanish and English), many of which are occasionally lyric in tonality (”The child turned to ashes. He was just a little pile of thirst” – ‘Thirst and the Boy’) while simultaneously anchored in poetic imagery (”The dog, lying at the child’s feel all night, shed two tears. They clinked like little bells” – ‘The Little Blue-Eyed Black Boy’).

As noted in the Translators’ Introduction: ”Many critics have noted that Ana Maria Matute’s fiction represents an ”immediately recognisable blend of lyricism and stark realism, sombre intuition and determined sociopolitical engagement” […]. Throughout her life, Ana Maria Matute criticised the injustices of the Franco regime and referred to the dictator as ”la momia” (the mummy). Early on she developed this ”solidaridad con ‘los otros, con los silenciados (solidarity with ‘the others,” with the silenced ones).”

For this alone, Matute is to be roundly applauded and this fine publication, roundly embraced.

David Marx

The Painter With The Hat Of Mallows

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The Painter With The Hat Of Mallows
By Marcos Calveiro
Small Stations Press – £7.99

This very sunny, evocative book has been carefully, yet most deliberately written within the rather poignant parameters of being told through the inquisitive, innocent eyes of a teenage boy; purposefully sent by his mother to spend a few days in the country as a way of keeping him out of trouble.

The Painter With The Hat Of Mallows (cool title) is set in the town of Auvers-sur-Oisee, one hour north of Paris, where the boy finds life with his horribly sounding great-aunt unbearable; that is until the arrival of the Dutch master painter, Vincent van Gogh!

There’s love, along with a touch of both temptation and violence – yet is as far removed from the trajectory of the bible as one could possibly imagine. Although personally speaking, it’s the consistent, utterly toptastic, many one-liners that make this book such a joy to read.

Among many others, these include: ”She smiled, revealing a row of white teeth like cherry blossom..” ”Beauty resides in truth, in life just as it presents itself to us. All I do is try to reflect it with humility.,” ”the sadness will last forever.,” ”My soul is covered in the soot of scepticism. I’m an unbeliever and don’t expect anything any more.,” and of course, author Marcos Calveiro, quoting Van Gogh himself: ”Let’s not forget that small emotions are the great captains of our lives.”

The writing as a whole is captivating in a story-telling sort of way, whereby the reader can put the book down at any moment, and simply carry on from where one has left off without the slightest of hesitation nor need to go back re-read.

Declaring style of writing, which, at the end of the day, is what good fiction is all about isn’t it?

Interspersed with a number of black and white etchings, these 155 pages shed light on a terrific writer whose ability to inadvertently intoxicate, is as natural as sunshine itself: ”[…] they didn’t miss one ounce of his fervent discourse. It was happening again, before my very eyes: the apostle of absinthe haranguing a disbelieving public that slowly turned into a devoted congregation, captivated by his passion and sentiment.”

Great stuff.

David Marx

Soundcheck

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Soundcheck
By Miguel-Anxo Murado
Small Stations Press – £7.99

In the early nineties, I undertook a number of humanitarian aid trips to the Balkans, so I can relate to a number of the places mentioned throughout Soundcheck – such as Karlovac, Sisak and Zadar. And like the Galician, journalist, author, Miguel-Anxo Murado, I too remember the sight(s) and the sound(s) of an incredulously emaciated society – hopelessly ravaged by the nigh impossible xenophobic vision of Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic.

And just as each of these thirteen short-stories underlie a seething humanity that’s impossible to argue with, they are also written in such a way as to suggest that mankind continues to get it horribly wrong.

”As if in accusation” (from ‘Shoes’), there is indeed a tempestuously, translucent thin line between one man’s right and another man’s wrong; which, so far as pain and suffering goes, really is neither here nor there. It just is: ”They were mainly English, French, and Italian, seventeen-year-olds who had surfaced out of the violence of Europe, from the wretched slums of Paris and London, ambitious for money, brutality or some outrageous dream. A few hours of combat had been enough to drain most of them, turning them into creatures sickened by that curious mixture of fear and self-sufficiency from which armies are fashioned” (‘A Day at the Zoo’).

Just as ”the end of the world takes places every day” – whether by way of nineteen-nineties Serb nationalism (high on moronic expansionism) or the current day Islamic State (high on equally moronic stupidity), Murado captures all the pointless, futility of war amid these 117 pages.

And then some.

Perhaps part of the reason being: it’s the unspoken which shouts the loudest.

There again: ”Each man has his own religion because each man has his own sins and his own penances (‘Scrap’).

David Marx

One Million Cows

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One Million Cows
By Manuel Rivas
Small Stations Press – £5.69

”Like an irate prophet” (‘The Sons of Luc & Fer’), the one and only Manuel Rivas writes of a great many issues throughout these eighteen, short snappy stories. And in so doing, transports the reader unto many a place of kaleidoscopic (mis)adventure.

Indeed, amid much virtuous and virulent metaphor, One Million Crows finds Galicia’s most renowned, international writer (whose previous books include The Carpenter’s Pencil, In The Wilderness, All Is Silence and perhaps one of my all time favourite books ever written, Books Burn Badly), addressing everything from the mud-flats of childhood to the redolent aftermath of suicide.

But from within this ”bell of memory” (‘Madonna (Christmas Story)’), the one story that essentially strikes home is ‘The Provincial Artist;’ which, by way of well-considered angst and periodic play on capital letters, the author writes: ”’There is in Spain,’ declared the critic Bernabe Candela, ‘nature and metaphysics, passion and biology, reflection and outbursts, and it is well known there is no beauty without rebellion, even if that convulsion is contained by the prudent nets of reason.”

There has to be an abundance of gravitas in the line: ”there is no beauty without rebellion,” which, if you really think about it, transports the rebellious etiquette of someone like Che Guevara to within striking distance a whole new tenet of thinking. Not to mention understanding; or ”the prudent nets of reason,” from where Rivas continues: ”Espina may be a wonderful symbiosis, that of the monster awaiting the end of the century.’ He read this article in the old slaughterhouse while peeling open a tin of mussels. His first reaction of complacent vanity was followed by a sense of disquiet and unease. Up until then, hardly anybody had paid him any attention.”

The above is so compact and colourful, so dense and at times, disparaging; that I found myself increasingly caught up or should I say, intrinsically lost within the actual essence of the writing itself, as opposed to that of the story being told.

Like so much of his work, the stories Manuel Rivas tells, could, for many, be construed as something of an added bonus. It’s the actual writing that’s so alluring. So attractive.

David Marx