Month: July 2015

Film Notes: Clouds of Sils Maria (2014) directed by Olivier Assayas

FR-CH-DE /124 minutes / color / CG Cinéma, CAB Productiosn, Pallas Film, Vortex Sutra and Arte France Cinéma Dir: Olivier Assayas Pro: Chales Gilibert Scr: Olivier Assayas Cine: Yorick Le Saux Film Editor: Marion Monnier Sound: Daniel Sobrino Mus: Cast: Juliette Binoche (Maria Enders), Kristen Stewart (Valentine), Chloë Grace Moretz (Jo-Ann Ellis), Johnny Flynn (Christopher Giles), Lars Eidinger (Klaus Diesterweg), Hanns Zischler (Henryk Wald), Angela Winkler (Rosa Melchior) Release Date (Spain) 12 June 2015. Spanish title: Viaje a Sils Maria

thumb.php Synopsis: At the peak of her international career, Maria Enders (Juliette Binoche) is asked to perform in a revival of the play that made her famous twenty years ago. But back then she played the role of Sigrid, an alluring young girl who disarms and eventually drives her boss Helena to suicide. Now she is being asked to step into the other role, that of the older Helena. She departs with her assistant (Kristen Stewart) to rehearse in Sils Maria; a remote region of the Alps. A young Hollywood starlet with a penchant for scandal (Chloë Grace Moretz) is to take on the role of Sigrid, and Maria finds herself on the other side of the mirror, face to face with an ambiguously charming woman who is, in essence, an unsettling reflection of herself. (Cannes Festival Official Selection)

Clouds of Sils Maria (aka Sils Maria) was selected to compete for the Palme d’Or in the main competition section at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival on 23 May 2014, and also screened at the Toronto International Film Festival and New York Film Festival. It won the Louis Delluc Prize for Best Film in December 2014 and a best supporting actress César Award for Kristen Stewart in February 2015.

Begoña and I went to see recently Clouds of Sils Maria. Enough is to say that I found the film pretentious, dull and based exclusively on lengthy dialogues to which, I’m sorry to say, I’ve not been able to see any meaning.

Confused lives at high altitudes. Read the full review at The Hollywood Reporter here.

Director’s Notes:

This film, which deals with the past, our relationship to our own past, and to what forms us, has a long history. One that Juliette Binoche and I implicitly share.

We first met at the beginning of both our careers. Alongside André Téchiné, I had written Rendez-vous, a story filled with ghosts where, at age twenty, she had the lead role. Even then, the film looked at the Invisible and the path a young actress takes towards the attaining fulfilment in a role. Since then, our paths have run parallel, only crossing much later when we shot Summer Hours together in 2008.

It was Juliette who had first had the feeling there was some missed opportunity, or rather film, that remained virtual in our shared history, and that would bring both of us back to the essential. With this same intuition in mind, I began taking notes, then breathing life into characters, and then into a story that had been waiting to exist for a long time.

Writing is a path, and this one is found at dizzying heights, of time suspended between origin and becoming. It is no surprise that it inspired in me images of mountainscapes and steep trails. There needed to be Spring light, the transparency of air, and the fogs of the past, those of the Cloud Phenomena of Maloja. A path that both brought me back to where everything started, for Juliette and myself, and where we find ourselves today, in our questions about the present, and especially the future.

Maria Enders is an actress. With her assistant, Valentine, they explore the wealth and complexity of characters created by Wilhelm Melchior – characters who still have yet to give up all their secrets, even twenty years later.

But it is not so much about theatre and its illusions, nor about the meanderings of fiction, so much as it is about the Human, of the simplest and most intimate kind.

In this respect, words, those written by authors, those that actors appropriate, those that spectators allow to resonate within themselves, evoke nothing other than the questions we all ask ourselves, everyday, in our own interior monologues.

Yes, of course, theatre is life.

And even a little better than life, because it unveils grandeur in the best of situations and the worst, in the trivial and in our dreams. In this sense, Maria Enders is neither Juliette Binoche nor myself. She is each of us through this necessity to revisit the past – not to elucidate it, but rather to find the keys to our identity, which has made us who we are, and which continues to push us forward. She peers into the void and observes the young woman she was at age 20. At heart, she’s still the same, but the world has changed around her, and her youth has fled – youth as virginity, as discovery of the world. This does not come around twice.

On the other hand, we never forget what our youth has taught us: this constant reinvention of the world, the deciphering of hyper-contemporary reality and the price one must pay to be part of it. Giving every new time the urgency and danger of a first time.

It is the confrontation between the past and present of a landscape that appeared to me as an ideal setting for a comedy – or drama, depending on the perspective one chooses – of an actress diving into the abyss of time, either out of professional or moral obligation, rather than desire.

When we stare into this void, it does not reflect much aside from our own image, frozen in the absolute present. This snapshot is at the heart of Sils Maria. Maria Enders discovers herself to be diffracted into a thousand avatars that resonate in the virtual world of fame – and detestation – of modern media. This is where the border between the most intimate, the most pathetically banal, and virtual public space is erased. We look for it, but cannot find it. Perhaps it simply no longer exists.

Is Maria Enders the young girl who once played Sigrid in Wilhelm Melchior’s film, is she the adult, the mature woman that other people see her as being; or perhaps is she still one of the characters she embodied, or another of the faces that appear when one types her name in Google Images or on YouTube?

Is there anything she can still cling to, if not the secret of her own privacy, the one place where time cannot leave its trace?

The place where it can only flow, like the Cloud Phenomena of Maloja?

Very early on, I thought of clouds, of the sky above the Engadin Valley, of how simultaneously immutable and moving a landscape can be, which is both intimidating and so human. It is strangely inscribed in time, and has witnessed all the beings who have roamed through it, merged with it, from every period. And who have experienced its dizzying heights.

In 1924, at the dawn of cinema, Arnold Fanck, one of the pioneers of mountain photography, filmed the strange Cloud Phenomena of Maloja where mountaintops, clouds and the wind all mix together abstractly, evoking classical Chinese painting. He shot it in black and white, and the only form in which it now exists is a worn and scratched-up print. In a word, a memory of what might have been and onto which time, in turn, has engraved itself.

It is nevertheless unsettling to feel an intimate and mysterious truth in these spaces, despite (or thanks to) the filters that separate us from them. They reveal themselves through a remote subjectivity, with nearly a century between us.

Is this not the exact process of art, which reproduces the world but though a singular gaze, which takes away as much as it reveals, indifferently bringing to light the visible and invisible? (Olivier Assayas)

Source: Cannes Festival Press Kit

Film Notes: Horses of God Original title: Les chevaux de Dieu (2012) directed by Nabil Ayouch

MA-FR-BE /115 minutes / colour / Ali’n Productions, Les Films du Nouveau Monde, Stone Angels, YC Alligator Film and Artémis Productions Dir: Nabil Ayouch Pro: Nabil Ayouch, Pierre-Ange Le Pogam, Eric Van Beuren and Patrick Quinet Scr: written by Jamal Belmahi, based on the novel ‘Les Étoiles de Sidi Moumen’ by Mahi Binebine Cine: Hichame Alaouie Film Editor: Damien Keyeux Sound: Zacharie Naciri and Eric Lesachet Mus: Malvina Meinier Cast: Abdelhakim Rachid (Yachine), Abdelilah Rachid (Hamid), Hamza Souidek (Nabil) and Ahmed El Idrissi Amrani (Fouad) Release Date (Spain) 3 July 2015. Spanish title: Los caballos de Dios.

Synopsis:

Yachine is 10 years old, he lives with his family in the slum of Sidi Moumen in Casablanca. His mother,Yemma, leads the family as best as she can. His father suffers from depression, one of his brothers is in the army, another is almost autistic and the third, Hamid, 13, is the boss of the local neighbourhood and Yachine’s protector. When Hamid is sent to jail, Yachine takes up jobs after jobs, though empty, to get free from the doldrums of violence, misery and drugs. Released from prison, Hamid, now an Islamic fundamentalist, persuades Yachine and his pals to join their ‘brothers’. The Imam, Abou Zoubeir, their spiritual leader, starts to direct their long-standing physical and mental preparation. One day, he tells them they have been chosen to become martyrs. The film is inspired by the terrorist attacks of May 16th 2003 in Casablanca.

In a summer scarce of good films in Madrid theatres, Begoña and I went to see yesterday Les chevaux de Dieu directed by Nabil Ayouch. The story is inspired by the terrorist attacks of 16 May 2003 in Casablanca and the scrip is based on the novel ‘The Stars of Sidi Moumen’, by Moroccan writer Mahi Binebine. The film won awards in film festivals in Rotterdam, Namur, Bruxelles, Valladolid, Doha, Besançon, Montpellier, but not in its own country, in the Marrakech film festival when it was in competition in February 2013. It  was selected as the Moroccan entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 86th Academy Awards, but it was not nominated. Les chevaux de Dieu received two nominations at the 4th Magritte Awards, winning Best Cinematography for Hichame Alaouié. Les chevaux de Dieu provides a great deal of food for thought and is, in my view, a courageous and honest movie, filmed with effectiveness and without concessions, that touches an extremely sensitive subject, Islamic fundamentalist terrorism. Maybe it’s not an extraordinary movie, there are some scenes that seemed to me in some way unnecessary and I felt that occasionally it is a bit uneven. None the less it is certainly a film of interest to try to understand our world of today.

Engrossing, realistic study of a Moroccan slum and how it becomes a breeding ground for young terrorists. (The Hollywood Reporter, read full review here)

An interview with Nabil Ayouch

How did your film HORSES OF GOD, based on the story of the young Moroccans who committed kamikaze bombings in 2003, come about?

First off, it comes from my own personal experience with the shanty town of Sidi Moumen, the neighbourhood of the young kamikazes who committed the Casablanca bombings in 2003. I had already shot a few scenes in the area for my 1999 film ALI ZAOUA. So it was someplace I’d had ample opportunity to explore and I felt perfectly comfortable there. It also boasts the surprising distinction of being Casablanca’s highest suburb. I remembered the people from the quarter being really pacifist and really open. So when the events of 2003 took place, I just didn’t get it. Fourteen kids from Sidi Moumen blowing themselves up. You say “No, it can’t be!” It was hugely traumatic for Morocco, because people expect this kind of act to be the work of trained terrorists hailing from Afghanistan or Iraq, but not for the perpetrators to be kids who until then had never left their slum. Most of them were twenty. It was so shocking that immediately I felt the need to react, to do something about it. Except that I didn’t do what I should have!

Which was…?

I took a camera and a team and went to meet the victims. I listened to the survivors, to their families. I did a short 16-minute film. But that was all. It took me a while to realize my vision was incomplete. It was about three or four years before I really came back to it. First because I realized that as film directors, we are not really witnesses with a duty to respond immediately like journalists. Our duty is first and foremost to stand back from events in order to construct a particular way of looking at things, our own way. It’s also the time I needed to understand my feeling of frustration, to understand that the victims were on both sides.

So then what did you do?

I went back to Sidi Moumen. The work I did was almost anthropological. I talked to people. I met with associations, because in the meantime, obviously, a large number of associations had sprung up in the quarter in response to the bombings. Then I bought the rights for an adaptation of Mahi Binedine’s book entitled “Les Étoiles de Sidi Moumen” (“The Stars of Sidi Moumen”), whose approach was exactly that of the story I wanted to tell.

Did you then go shoot your film in Sidi Moumen?

No, although for a long time I had planned to shoot right in the middle of Sidi Moumen. But the area has changed a lot, like with the construction of a huge block of apartment buildings. The pocket of slum where the kamikazes were from was shrinking. In terms of the camera’s point of view, it was becoming impossible to film. It no longer made sense to shoot there, everything had changed so much.

Why?

I needed to capture the Sidi Moumen that gave rise to this generation of kamikazes in terms of their relationship to their neighbourhood; a Sidi Moumen removed from the modern world, a rural shanty town, removed from any notion of urbanism. So I decided to shoot in another shanty town a few kilometres away. I worked, however, with a lot of inhabitants of Sidi Moumen.

Was it difficult to get a film on such a touchy subject off the ground? For instance, did you meet with defiance on the part of Moroccan authorities?

I met with a lot of defiance regarding the subject, at different levels, but never from the Moroccan government. I even received a grant for the project. Similarly, we immediately got authorization to shoot. On the other hand, each time we had to explain in great detail how we planned to approach the subject which, again, was hugely traumatic for Moroccans. Some people questioned whether the wound should really be reopened at all. So there was understandable reluctance, but never any blockage or censorship.

Has the Arab Spring, which occurred while you were in the middle of your film, had any influence on it?

The first effect of the Arab Spring was that the authorities no doubt weren’t too preoccupied with us, we were pretty much left on our own. That was the first real effect. The second, however, was that there was a certain tangible tension in the streets, especially in the working class neighbourhoods where we were shooting. We had to keep our heads down if we didn’t want to give the impression of some kind of provocation. Everybody was on edge. There were demonstrations daily. Islamist currents, encouraged by what was happening in Egypt and Tunisia, were coming out in the open. With elections coming up, several people involved in Islamist movements in the quarter tried to stop the shoot.

You were immersed in Morocco’s political climate and yet you chose an intimate approach to this true story. Why?

For multiple reasons including the desire to get viewers immediately involved with the film’s characters. The main characters, the kamikazes, are kids who are not the only ones responsible for their acts, they are victims of them. I wanted to get that across. I needed to start the film like a chronicle and not jump immediately in with a distant historical panorama. What I wanted above all to convey was the everyday life of these kids, their environment, their parents, the lack of paternity, the strong bond between them and all of the micro traumas of life that make that at some point or another, it all transforms, as they grow up, into desperate, unbearable resentment. Their small stories forge their destiny and turn them into part of history, that of national and global geopolitics.

What are the key points you relied on to develop your story?

The lack of access to education for these kids, the breakdown of family structures that brings with it a loss of bearings. There is also the unity of the place, which is very specific to this story, since these kids had never left their slum. There was a closing in, even if that isn’t all bad. Indeed, shanty towns are horizontal structures where people communicate with greater flow than in the vertical structures of block housing complexes. But the limit to living in a vacuum of this kind is that people turn rigid. Moreover, in these slum niches, micro systems sometimes arise, like the Wahhabi fundamentalism that reached Morocco in the 1980s and 90s from Saudi Arabia. It’s difficult for a kid who has never known anything outside neighbourhood life not be permeated and sometimes thoroughly convinced by the idea that these new micro systems, in this instance radical Islamism, are their only future

Yet we do see in the film that soccer also enables these kids to escape their condition.

Yes, soccer really is a form of social elevator for these kids. It’s also what creates ties between them in the film since soccer possesses a unifying power that few things equal, except perhaps for art and culture, but these kids don’t have access to that.

Did you decide to romanticize, to extrapolate on the backgrounds of the kamikazes or did you remain faithful to what you knew of their real lives within this geographical and social context?

Jamal Belmahi, the screenwriter, Alain Rozanès, who accompanied us throughout the writing phase and then Pierre-Ange Le Pogam, the film’s producer, and I discussed this a lot. We were all in agreement. Reality has an exceptional virtue, that of being able to present the facts, while fiction allows us to recount them. I therefore chose to stray from the reality of the lives of these young kamikazes, to not do their biographies, in order to capture my subject and extrapolate, all the while basing it on discussions with researchers and sociologists and a reading of the research and studies on the subject.

What did you get from your reading?

The way the fundamentalists have appropriated the notion of solidarity. How they operate to recruit these youths who want for a father figure.

This lack of a father figure, of authority, does it have anything to do with that which is felt by a whole generation of children of Arab immigrants living in Europe, who feel their fathers are not respected in the social order and have let themselves be too far pushed around?

Yes, there’s a spirit of revolt, of rebellion, in common between these young generations, whether they have emigrated or remained in their country of origin. Clearly so. They criticize their parents for being too docile. These generations want it all and they want it now. The fact is, these kids live in patriarchal societies. Their mothers make the decisions but their fathers symbolize the power. So obviously, when their father’s authority is lacking, there are no longer the safeguards needed to keep these youths within certain boundaries and it all explodes. That was the case for almost all of the young kamikazes that blew themselves up in Casablanca in 2003.

Were the young actors in your film also very concerned by this issue?

No, it’s not part of their major preoccupations. They are non-professional actors we could describe as reliable albeit unwitting witnesses to a reality they carry and experience to some extent despite themselves. They are kids from working class neighbourhoods. Some, like the two main roles, even live in Sidi Moumen which is where I met them. I chose them after roaming the neighbourhoods for two years, because the difficulty, of course, was to find personalities capable of incarnating the characters.

How did you decide on the title of your film?

At first the film bore the title of the novel from which it’s adapted: “The Stars of Sidi Moumen”. But we realized that it could be perceived in a positive light, that some would see a form of glorification in what the kamikazes had committed. Whereas, while I wanted to give a human face to these young men, in no way did I wish to celebrate their deeds. We looked around and found an excerpt from a text on the jihad at the time of the Prophet: “Fly horses of God and to you the doors of heaven will open” This phrase was used several times in modern jihad terminology by Ben Laden and in televised sermons. The phrase was also pronounced in the film by the “great emir” who comes to tell them they have been chosen.

What was your directorial angle with regard to incarnating all of this? How do you conciliate sunshine and youth with despair and death?

By going from one to the other. Without going to extremes, I discussed it in terms of definite colours with my DP, Hichame Alaouie, the property master and the costume designer. I wanted us to start with everyday life full of warm, highly saturated colours, and then, as we got further into the film, toward death, for the colours to fade. The closer we got to the present, the duller the colours. Then there’s the question of framing. I wanted to stick with something sober, elegant and non demonstrative. At the same time, I wanted to keep the camera on the cameraman’s shoulder for the two-thirds of the film up to the point where they’re recruited. For that, I had the key grip make systems to “carry” the camera during moving scenes while keeping the framing dynamic, since none of the existing systems suited me. We did several days of testing to find the right system. In the last part of the film, the more the film advanced the more I wanted the image to settle down, and the rhythm to be calmer, more serious, less twisting and turning. A last angle in terms of directing is the music. I wanted anything but ethnic or folk music, “local” colour. I wanted music that wasn’t overly orchestrated (with the exception of the last piece), that was almost inaudible, unidentifiable. There are so many sounds of all sorts—music escaping from transistor radios—that comes up everywhere in the film that I wanted this music to different, for it to provide a certain detachment that can invoke another form of emotion.

What did you personally get out of the film?

It’s a film on the human condition. I think it taught me to leave behind a form of natural reserve or distance, and to reach out to others. To better understand, for sure. But to better understand myself as well, and to accept certain choices. Some choices no doubt more radical than others, made earlier. With this film, I feel less of a need to be loved and more the need to be understood. (Source: 2012 Cannes Festival – Press Kit)

OT: VS de Murúa 2011 Tempranillo

20150713_211622 An expressive and personal neoclassical style wine, VS (Viñedos Seleccionados) is the latest coupage from Bodegas Murua. The winery has remained true to its philosophy of creating artisan Rioja wines, yet with VS they were also seeking something new, inspiring a wine loaded with freshness and fruity nuances. VS continues in the same line that Bodegas Murua initiated with the high-expression wine M de Murua, in a bid to craft lively and fruity wines from their best plots. Murua VS is produced with a special selection of the native grape varieties Tempranillo, Graciano and Mazuelo, chosen for their high expression.

  • Winery: Bodegas Murua, S. A. (Masaveu Bodegas) Carretera de Laguardia, s/n – Elciego 01340 – Álava – Spain. Murua is situated on a small hill just outside Elciego (Álava), heading towards Laguardia. It has belonged to the Masaveu Family since 1974, and is a reference in Rioja Alavesa. Its wines, mostly aged Reservas and Grandes Reservas, are all product of their 110 hectares of vineyards, some of the vines are more than 60 years old.
  • Phone: +34 945 606260
  • Winemaker: Jesús Bauza & Laura Puente
  • Website: www.bodegasmurua.com  
  • Brand: VS de Murúa. VS stands for Viñedos Seleccionados
  • DO: DOC Rioja
  • Type: Estate red wine with16 months aging in French (10 %) and American (90 %) oak barrels.
  • Vintage:  2011
  • Alcohol: 13,5%
  • Grape Variety: 92% Tempranillo, 5% Graciano, and 3% Mazuelo. 
  • Vineyards:  Murua boasts 110 hectares of its own vineyards, most of which are situated around the winery in Elciego, however it also has plots in neighbouring towns such as Leza and Laguardia
  • Soil Type: Clay-limestone soil that rises 450 m above sea level. The area has a mild Mediterranean climate with Atlantic influences
  • Bottle Size: 75.0 cl.
  • Price:  11.25€ (including VAT) at Masaveu Bodegas website
  • My wine rating: 93/100 (A wine of outstanding or superior quality) NEW!
  • The VS de Murua  2010 was first launched in 2013. This is the second vintage of an extraordinary wine at a very affordable price that I had the opportunity to taste recently. It was a lovely experience.

    Review: Summerchill by Quentin Bates

    Esta entrada es bilingüe, para ver la versión en castellano desplazarse hacia abajo

    Constable, 2015. Format: Kindle Edition. File Size: 686 KB Print Length: 160 ISBN: 9781472121189 (ebook) ASIN: B00V6XDMOQ

    isbn9781472121189The author himself presents this book on his website as follows:

    It was a chance remark I heard on the radio. A well-known book critic was jokily taking about Nordic crime fiction and made the comment that all Scandi crime fiction seems to take place in the depths of an Arctic winter.

    That’s stretching the stereotype… Going all the way back to the forerunners, some of Sjöwall & Wahlöö’s magnificent stories were set with the backdrop of a sweltering Stockholm summer; and even cool Scandinavia can be truly hot and sticky at the height of summer.

    But it set me thinking about writing something set in summer and the result is Summerchill. The only snow in it is on the cover. My publisher wouldn’t be moved – it’s Nordic so it had to look wintry.

    It’s set at the tail end of summer, the dusty tail end of a hot summer with half of Reykjavík on holiday and the other half wishing it still was. It’s the time of year when people barbecue furiously – maybe even more furiously than usual in a nation of furious barbecue fanatics – knowing that the first of the winter depressions will wash up on Iceland’s shores around the end of August or maybe not until we’re into September, but grey skies will be with us again soon and it’ll be back to standing over the barbecue under an umbrella.

    Summerchill is a novella, around half the length of a standard book, and available only as an e-book. It’s designed as a filler, something to fill the gap between full-length books, and there has been a gap between Cold Steal in 2014 and the next one, Thin Ice, which is due next year, but that’s another tale…

    I like the novella format, and it’s not far from being the length of what a normal book was a generation ago. Look at Simenon’s Maigret stories, perfectly-formed 50,000 word snapshots with everything you need in there in terms of structure and character. That was before the inexorable rise of the blockbuster and now there’s a fashion for books that are an inch and half thick, presumably so one book will last you an hour in the departure lounge, a whole flight and a bus ride at the far end.

    Oddly, there’s a certain freedom with the novella format, a relaxing of the reins of what can and can’t be done in print, so with Summerchill I was free to stretch the rules a little more than usual. It’s remarkably liberating and I don’t feel the book is any the worse for it, although that’s up to the reader to decide.

    Quentin Bates was born in England and through a series of coincidences found himself working in Iceland for his gap year. One year turned into ten, plus a wife and children. After ten years writing on the sea and a move back to the UK, Quentin took to dry land and began work as a nautical journalist and editor of a commercial fishing magazine. He lives in Hampshire with his wife and three children. The Gunnhildur Gisladottir series was born through the author’s own inside knowledge of Iceland and its society, along with exploring the world of crime. (Source: little, brown Book Group).

    Summerchill has been the first book, a novella in this case, that I’ve read by Quentin Bates, but I’m positive it won’t be the last. The characters are nicely drawn, the story is narrated at a fast pace, and the writing is very precise. Given its length it can be read at one sitting. As the title suggest the action is set during the summer. Therefore, it’s an excellent entertainment as a summer reading. In a sense, the financial crisis is present in the background of the story. In my view it has also a great sense of place. Just in case I did not made myself clear, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed its reading.

    My rating: A (I loved it) 

    Summerchill has been reviewed at Crime time, Crime thriller girl, Euro Crime (Ewa Sherman), Crime Watch (Grant Nicol), Crime Fiction Lover (Marina Sofia),

    little, brown Book Group

    Quentin Bates website

    Interview with Quentin Bates (Marina Sofia)

    What’s Your First Draft Like? (Rebecca Bradley)

    Quentin Bates at Fantastic Fiction

    Summerchill de Quentin Bates

    El propio autor presenta este libro en su página web de la siguiente manera:

    Fue un comentario casual que escuché en la radio. Un conocido crítico literario estaba bromeando sobre la novela negra nórdica e hizo el comentario de que toda la novela negra escandinava parecía desarrollarse en las profundidades del invierno ártico.

    Eso es exagerar el estereotipo … si nos retrotraemos a los precursores, algunas de la magníficas historias de Sjöwall y Wahlöö tienen lugar como en el contexto de un sofocante verano de Estocolmo; e incluso la fría Escandinavia puede ser realmente calurosa y pegajosa en pleno verano.

    Pero me hizo pensar en escribir algo que sucediese en verano y el resultado ha sido Summerchill. La única nieve está en la portada. No pude convencer a mi editor – es nórdica por lo que tiene que parecer invernal.

    Tiene lugar al final del verano, al final de un caluroso verano, con la mitad de Reikiavik de vacaciones y la otra mitad deseando que todavía lo fueran. Es la época del año cuando la gente prepara las barbacoas con frenesí,  quizá con más frenesí de lo habitual en una nación de fanáticos furiosos de la barbacoa – sabiendo que la primera de las depresiones de invierno alcanzará las costas de Islandia a finales de agosto o quizá no hasta que estemos en septiembre, pero los cielos grises pronto estarán con nosotros de nuevo y regresaremos a estar de pie junto a la barbacoa bajo un paraguas.

    Summerchill es un relato corto, cerca de la mitad de la extensión de un libro normal, y sólo está disponible como un libro electrónico. Está diseñado como relleno, algo para rellenar el espacio entre libros completos, y se ha producido una brecha entre Cold Steal 2014 y el siguiente, Thin Ice, previsto para el próximo año, pero eso es otra historia …

    Me gusta el formato de relato corto, y no está lejos de tener la extensión de un libro normal hace una generación. Vean las historias de Maigret de Simenon, instantáneas de 50.000 palabras perfectamente formadas con todo lo que en ellas se necesita en cuanto a estructura y carácter. Eso fue antes del inexorable aumento de los libros de éxito, y ahora está de moda los libros que tienen más de pulgada y media de espesor, presumiblemente para que un libro dure una hora en la sala de embarque, todo un vuelo y un viaje en autobús al final.

    Curiosamente, existe una cierta libertad con el formato de relato corto, un relajamiento de las ataduras de lo que puede y no se puede hacer en forma impresa, por lo que con Summerchill yohe sido libre de forzar las reglas algo más de lo habitual. Es extraordinariamente liberador y no siento que el libro sea peor por eso, aunque es tarea del lector decidir esto.

    Quentin Bates nació en Inglaterra y tras una serie de coincidencias se encontró trabajando en Islandia un año sabático. Un año que se convirtieron en diez, más una mujer y niños. Después de diez años escribiendo en el mar y un traslado de regreso al Reino Unido, Quentin volvió a tocar tierra y comenzó a trabajar como periodista náutico y editor de una revista de pesca comercial. Vive en Hampshire con su esposa y tres hijos. La serie Gunnhildur Gisladottir nació del propio conocimiento del autor de Islandia y su sociedad, además de para explorar el mundo de la delincuencia. (Fuente: Little, Brown Book Group).

    Summerchill ha sido el primer libro, un relato corto en este caso, que he leído de Quentin Bates, pero estoy convencido de que no será el último. Los personajes están muy bien dibujados, la historia está narrada con buen ritmo, y la escritura es muy precisa. Dada su extensión se puede leer de una sentada. Como el título sugiere la acción se desarrolla durante el verano. Por lo tanto, es un excelente entretenimiento como lectura de verano. En cierto sentido, la crisis financiera está presente en el trasfondo de la historia. En mi opinión, también tiene un gran sentido de lugar. Por si acaso no he sido claro, he disfrutado muchísimo de su lectura.

    Mi valoración: A (Me encantó)

    Review: The Yellow Dog by Georges Simenon

    Esta entrada es bilingüe, para ver la versión en castellano desplazarse hacia abajo

    Penguin Classics, 2013. Format: Paperback. Translated by Linda Asher. ISBN: 9780141393476. (134 pages)

    9780141393476 The Yellow Dog was originally published in French by Fayard in 1931 as Le chien jaune. The first English translation by Geoffrey Sainsbury was published by George Routledge & Sons in 1939 as A Face for a Clue and was reissued in 1980 by Severn House as Maigret and the Concarneau Murders. The current translation, Maigret and the Yellow Dog, by Linda Asher was first published in 1987 by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich and with minor revisions was published in Great Britain as The Yellow Dog by Penguin Classics in 2003. This edition with further minor revisions was published by Penguin Classics in 2013.

    The action takes place in Concarneau, a seaside village in the Finistère department of Brittany in north-western France. Concarneau is a summer resort very visited during the holiday season though thinly populated in the winter months. The story begins one November evening when a man leaves the Admiral Hotel after having spent a good time with some friends. His walk, slightly unsteady, implies that he’s been drinking more than necessary. After several attempts, he fails to light his cigar because of the wind, takes refuge by a doorway, loses his balance and falls backwards. A customs guard on duty has seen it all and is ready to help him when he realises that the man has been wounded by a shot fired from the other side of the doorway. The wounded man, Monsieur Mostaguen, turns out to be a distinguish citizen, ‘Concarneau’s biggest wine dealer, a good fellow, without an enemy in the world’. Shortly after, an awful dog, a strange yellow animal, is first seen roaming around the surrounding area. Chief Inspector Jules Maigret, assigned to Rennes to reorganise its mobile unit over the last month, is called by Concarneau’s mayor to investigate and comes to town with Leroy, a young inspector with whom he has not worked before. Maigret installs himself at the Admiral Hotel, the best in town. Maigret himself sums up as follows what happens next:

    ‘The following day, Saturday, I enter the café. After introductions, I am about to drink an aperitif with Messieurs Michoux, Le Pommeret, and Jean Servières, when the doctor suddenly becomes suspicious of something in his glass. Analysis shows the Pernod bottle to be poisoned.’

    ‘Sunday morning, Jean Servières disappears. His car is found, with bloodstains, not far from his home. Before this discovery, the Brest Beacon receives a report of the events nicely calculated to sow panic in Concarneau.’

    ‘Then Sevières is seen first in Brest, latter in Paris, where he seems to be hiding and to which he has apparently gone of his own free will.’

    ‘The same day, Sunday, Monsieur Le Pommerest has an aperitif with the doctor, returns to his home, has dinner there and dies afterwards, from the effects of strychnine poisoning.’

    The mayor insists that Maigret makes an arrest, any arrest. Meanwhile the local police arrests a huge drifter that was seen loitering around the area, although the vagrant manages to escape. Maigret, under pressure, sends the Doctor to prison.  Dr Michoux assumes that Maigret has put on a show to protect him. Few, however, have paid attention to Emma, the mysterious waitress at the Admiral Hotel. Finally, Maigret concludes his account of the facts:

    ‘Bear with me now, we’re coming to the end. Tonight, Monday, a customs guard is shot in the leg as he walks down an empty street. The doctor is still in prison, under close watch. Le Pommeret is dead. Servières is in Paris in the hands of the Sûreté. Emma and the vagrant are at the very moment embracing and then devouring a chicken before my own eyes’.

    In the plot of The Yellow Dog, insignificant in appearance, Simenon proves his great talent as a writer. This is a relatively short book, my edition has barely 134 pages, and it’s an excellent example of one of his first books in the series; those published between 1931 and 1934. In my view, if I have to highlight something it would be the method used by Maigret to solve the case. Maigret himself describes his method to his young assistant Leroy, as follows:

    You’re lucky my friend! Especially in this case, in which my method has actually been not to have one … I’ll give you some good advice: if you’re interested in getting ahead, don’t take me for a model, or invent any theories from what you see me doing.’    

    Actually, to find out what happened, Maigret will have to let events take their course, without interfering with them, until he finally solves the case by bringing together all the characters involved in the story and provides an explanation of all the facts . A delicious summer reading, highly recommended. To whet your appetite, I suggest you take a look at this superb first chapter, here

    My rating: A (I loved it) 

    The Yellow Dog has been reviewed at Confessions of a mystery novelist … (Margot Kinberg), Tipping My Fedora (Sergio Angelini),

    Penguin Classics

    Maigret of the Month: Le chien jaune

    El perro canelo de Georges Simenon

    NACA218 La acción tiene lugar en Concarneau, un pueblo de la costa en el departamento de Finisterre en Bretaña, al noroeste de Francia. Concarneau es un lugar de veraneo muy concurrido durante la temporada de vacaciones, aunque poco poblado en los meses de invierno. La historia comienza una tarde-noche de noviembre, cuando un hombre deja el hotel Admiral después de haber pasado un buen rato con algunos amigos. Su caminar, un poco inestable, implica que ha estado bebiendo más de la cuenta. Tras varios intentos, no logra encender su cigarro a causa del viento, se refugia en un portal, pierde el equilibrio y cae hacia atrás. Un guardia de aduanas de servicio lo ha visto todo y se dispone a ayudarlo cuando cae en la cuenta de que el hombre ha sido herido por un disparo efectuado desde el otro lado del portal. El herido resulta ser el señor Mostaguen, un ciudadano distinguido, el mayor comerciante de vinos de Concarneau, un buen hombre, sin enemigo alguno en el mundo. Poco después, un perro horrible, un animal extraño de color amarillo, es visto por primera vez deambulando por los alrededores. El inspector jefe Jules Maigret, asignado a Rennes para reorganizar su unidad móvil en el último mes, es llamado por el alcalde de Concarneau para investigar y llega a la ciudad con Leroy, un joven inspector con el que no ha trabajado antes. Maigret se instala en el hotel Admiral. El propio Maigret resume de esta manera lo que sucede a continuación:

    “Al día siguiente, sábado, entro en el café. Después de las presentaciones, estoy a punto de tomar un aperitivo con los señores Michoux, Le Pommeret, y Jean Servières, cuando el médico de pronto comienza a sospechar de algo que hay en su vaso. El análisis muestra que la botella de Pernod está envenenada.”

    “Domingo por la mañana, Jean Servières desaparece. Su coche aparece, con manchas de sangre, cerca de su casa. Antes de este descubrimiento, el Faro de Brest recibe una relación de los sucesos bien elaborada para sembrar el pánico en Concarneau.”

    “Entonces Sevières es visto primero en Brest, después en París, donde parece que se esconde y a donde al parecer ha ido por su propia voluntad.”

    “Ese mismo día, domingo, Monsieur Le Pommerest toma el aperitivo con el doctor, regresa a su casa, cena en ella y muere poco después, como consecuencia de una intoxicación por estricnina.”

    El alcalde insiste en que Maigret haga una detención inmediata, cualquier detención. Mientras tanto la policía local detiene a un vagabundo enorme que fue visto merodeando por la zona, aunque el vagabundo logra escapar. Maigret, bajo presión, envía al doctor a la cárcel. El Dr. Michoux asume que Maigret ha montado un espectáculo para protegerlo. Pocos, sin embargo,  han prestado atención a Emma, la misteriosa camarera del hotel Admiral. Por último, Maigret concluye su relato de los hechos:

    “Le ruego me disculpe ahora, estamos llegando al final. Esta noche, lunes, un guardia de aduanas es alcanzado por un disparo en la pierna mientras camina por una calle vacía. El doctor está todavía encarcelado, bajo estrecha vigilancia. Le Pommeret ha muerto. Servières está en París a disposición de la Sûreté. Emma y el vagabundo se encuentran en este mismo momento fundidos en un abrazo y a continuación devoran un pollo ante mis propios ojos.”

    En la trama de El perro canelo, insignificante en apariencia, Simenon demuestra su gran talento como escritor. Este es un libro relativamente corto, mi edición tiene apenas 134 páginas, y es un excelente ejemplo de uno de sus primeros libros de la serie; los publicados entre 1931 y 1934. En mi opinión, si tengo que destacar algo sería el método utilizado por Maigret para resolver el caso. El propio Maigret describe su método a su joven ayudante Leroy, de la siguiente manera:

    “Tienes suerte, amigo mío! Especialmente en este caso, en el que mi método ha sido precisamente no tenerlo  … te voy a dar un buen consejo: si tiene interés en salir adelante, no me tomes como modelo, ni inventes teorías de lo que me hayas visto hacer”.

    En realidad, para averiguar lo que pasó, Maigret tendrá que dejar que los acontecimientos sigan su curso, sin interferir en ellos, hasta que finalmente resuelve el caso reuniendo a todos los personajes involucrados en la historia y proporciona una explicación de todos los hechos. Una deliciosa lectura de verano, muy recomendable. Para ir abriendo boca, les sugiero que echen un vistazo a esta excelente primer capítulo, aquí.

    Mi valoración: A (Me encantó)

    Acantilado