Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Man of My Life by Manuel Vázquez Montalbán

A cover blurb for this new trade paperback of Manuel Vázquez Montalbán's The Man of My Life (Serpent's Tail) says the author "does for Barcelona what Chandler did for Los Angeles."

Does for the 21st century ... would be more accurate. Detective Pepe Carvalho has returned to Barcelona after the events in the previous Carvalho novel, The Buenos Aires Quintet, and he does indeed offer pungent commentary on what his city has become:
"Barcelona ... was not the anarchists' fiery rose, because the bourgeoisie had won its final victory by the simple trick of changing its name; it called itself the `emerging sector' now, and how on earth could anyone throw a bomb or build a barricade against an `emerging sector'?"
He notes bathers and cyclists "equally keen on the sea and getting something for nothing," a mordant observation on our prostration before the God of the Free Market. And, he tells his first prospective client, things are tough for gumshoes, too:
"Globalisation has hit us hard. The multinationals control all private security business, and one-off detectives like me are seen as anthropological curiosities. There's never been so much Theology of Security around, nor so many crooks and murderers in the market, but we can't compete with the multinationals of oppression. What NATO is doing beggars belief. For now, they're just using intelligent missiles, but soon they'll be arresting and imprisoning people with magnets that can detect defeated human flesh from hundreds of miles away."
"Does for Barcelona what Chandler did for Los Angeles" falls short of Vázquez Montalbán's compass, I'd say.

© Peter Rozovsky 2009

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Blogger Jose Ignacio Escribano said...

Thanks for your post about MVM. I very much enjoy reading your blog. Thank you as well for the information you provide about the Tesis on Mediterranean detective story.
José Ignacio Escribano

October 11, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

You're welcome. Anna Maria Valsecchi must have enjoyed her reading for that thesis.

October 11, 2009  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

This seems more like another example of that tiresome expedient--dragging Chandler's name into a crime fiction book review--than an attempt to make any real connection between Montalbán's Barcelona's and Chandler's L.A. God, how authors must get tired of that ball and chain.

And thinking about Chandler made me remember that he had something to say about translations (well, he had something to say about most things) so I went and looked it up. Referring to a French-to-English translation of a book about Eugène Delacroix as "a heavy lump of suet...compared with the lightness and ease of the French...":

"Damn translations anyway. We have to have them because there are so many languages we don't know, but they're never the real thing, not even the best of them."

(from an 11 May 1953 letter to his English publisher, Hamish Hamilton)

October 12, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Elisabeth, I was going to poke fun at the easy Chandler comparison, but I read a lengthier excerpt from the review that went into a bit more detail, with such pronouncements as this: "Exposes the criminal power relationships beneath the facade of democracy." The reviewer apparently gave the matter more thought than some reviewers do, and in the process may have reinfused Chandler with a bit of the old edge his writing once may have had. (But I associate Hammett with attacks on corruption more than I do Chandler.)

October 12, 2009  

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