Wednesday 26 May 2021

Book Review: Leaving the Atocha Station by Adam Lerner

4* Probably the most compelling first person narrative I have read.

It is a rambling, uncertain, fictional (?) memoire of American student, Adam Gordon's time in Spain. He's drunk and /or drugged up for a lot of it, a poet supposedly writing but with no intention of completing the work required by his scholarship - his project is “a long, research-driven poem” exploring the legacy of the Spanish Civil War about which he knows nothing - instead he is hiding behind the supposed inadequacy of his Spanish as he negotiates friendships and lovers, translators of his poems, reading Tolstoy, Ashbery and Cerventes in a spaced out stupor. We are taken on a full-of-self-doubt, thoroughly engaging impressionistic drift through his time in Spain to the finale of a panel discussion on Literature Now and the launch of his poetry in translation pamphlet -

"was I in fact a conversationally fluent Spanish speaker and a real poet, whatever that meant? It was true that when I spoke to her (Teresa) in Spansh I was not translating, I was not thinking my thoughts in English first, but I was nevertheless outside the language I was speaking, building simple sentences with the blocks I had memorized, not communicating through a fluid medium. But why didn't I just suck it up, attend the panel and share my thoughts in my second lanagueg without irony? They wanted the input of a young American poet writing and reading abroad and wasn't that what I was, not just what I was pretending to be? Maybe only my fraudulence was fraudulent"

The writing is very engaging, oftimes funny. Clearly the author has a way with words and a little research showed me that he is in fact a published poet. The Audible audio version of this his first novel is well narrated by the author himself and I found it very good to listen to, helping me truly 'hear' the voice of his main character and get the book's humour.

No comments:

Post a Comment