Do you have a bookshelf of books about Argentina?

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  • I would hazard a guess and say that the readers who bought the newspaper have also passed away over the years.


    I occasionally hear some German spoken by some senior patients at the Hospital Aleman. But I reckon they are in their nineties. One of my mates who also visits the Hospital says they arrived on the last U-Boat to leave Germany when the Germans surrendered.

  • Here’s my shelf, with a couple missing: Luis Alberto Romero’s “A History of Argentina in the Twentieth Century,” which I hope is among our stored items in Buenos Aires; and “Last Tango in Buenos Aires,”which I read and gave to a friend. Your photo makes me want a copy of Borges’ “On Argentina.”


    @Bombonera , I curious about your books by WH Koebel, which look like possibly early to mid 20th century. Are they informative, accurate and reasonably easy to read?

  • My collection is somewhat chaotic: several bits of several bookcases rather than a nice orderly bookshelf. If you remind me when I go back to England I'll try and tidy it up and photograph it. In the meantime may I mention a few that might interest? I have several cookery books including El libro de Doña Petrona which is the classic work for traditional Argentine cookery.


    Language books including the Diccionario del Habla de los Argentinos from the Academia Argentina de Letras. It's a Spanish/Argentine dictionary running to 700 odd pages rather like my other Spanish/English dictionaries but translating words from the Argentine lexicon into Spanish. Not something I tend to use as a reference book but fascinating to browse from time to time.


    A number of coffee table picture books, guide books, books about the history and architecture and mythology of Buenos Aires. To your Bruce Chatwin (which I'd swear is the best insight into Patagonia that I've ever read even if some of it isn't true) I'd add Paul Theroux's Old Patagonian Express and a couple of volumes about the Falklands in 1982. Some Borges in English and in Spanish, Seconds Out by Martin Kohan (Google it if you don't know it - it's a fascinating whodunit if you like this sort of thing) And then there's the classic Martin Fierro by José Hernández.


    All I'd say about Martin Fierro is "don't." With humble apologies to GlasgowJohn , @scottishgaucho and anybody else who is here from Scotland I'd liken struggling with the obscure language in Martin Fierro to trying to read Burns if you don't even have a good grasp of English.

  • Probably the only book on my shelf I didn't enjoy was the one you've already read, "Last Tango in Buenos Aires." A book that, as I recall, doesn't mention Buenos Aires one single time!
    Happy reading everyone!

    I didn’t enjoy it either. So I passed it along to someone who wanted to read it, with instructions not to return it.

    To your Bruce Chatwin (which I'd swear is the best insight into Patagonia that I've ever read even if some of it isn't true) I'd add Paul Theroux's Old Patagonian Express and a couple of volumes about the Falklands in 1982. Some Borges in English and in Spanish, Seconds Out by Martin Kohan (Google it if you don't know it - it's a fascinating whodunit if you like this sort of thing) And then there's the classic Martin Fierro by José Hernández.


    All I'd say about Martin Fierro is "don't." With humble apologies to GlasgowJohn , @scottishgaucho and anybody else who is here from Scotland I'd liken struggling with the obscure language in Martin Fierro to trying to read Burns if you don't even have a good grasp of English.

    Ah! Martin Fierro! A good friend gave me an edition with Spanish on the left, English on the right. That helped a lot, though it’s still difficult.


    I found The Old Patagonian Express somewhat interesting, though Paul Theroux’s writing style irritates me, so I didn’t really enjoy it. I do agree about Bruce Chatwin, whose descriptions were fascinating to me. (What parts aren’t true? Or do I want to know?)


    I think I need to locate “Seconds Out.”


    On a different shelf, with Martin Fierro, is my favorite novel of Argentina: The Last British President, by Marc Thomas, Splinter !

  • I do agree about Bruce Chatwin, whose descriptions were fascinating to me. (What parts aren’t true? Or do I want to know?)


    I think I need to locate “Seconds Out.

    Think of it like an episode of "The Crown" or better still, the upcoming "Stonehouse" about which there has been so much controversy: in order to tell the story they make up bits which didn't happen but if they had happened they would have made peoples feelings and motivations within the story so much clearer. So they wove in some fiction in order to tell the story better.


    Let me take another of Chatwin's books, The Songlines. It's about Aboriginal Australia and so much of Aboriginal Australia is about the myths and legends and spirituality of the people and the way these have been handed down from generation to generation. How do you write about that? Okay, so this is just my interpretation so your mileage may vary as they say: I think The Songlines is a sort-of homage to the writers of the Old Testament of the Bible. In the beginning are the history books, the Pentateuch, and in the first few chapters of The Songlines, Chatwin riffs on the histories of the Aboriginal people. Later we get shorter chapters of more poetic description - Chatwin's homage to the Psalms? And further on he publishes what appear to be his rough, unedited contemporaneous notes from the journey, short random pieces which each have something pithy to say (or not) but don't necessarily connect one with the other. The Book of Proverbs?


    I hope I'm not alienating anybody here but I would say that most people who read these sorts of ancient scriptures find that they tell universal truths without necessarily telling the literal truth. For example, tradition says tha Moses sat down and wrote the Pentateuch but in the main scholarship says it was the work of many writers over a very long period of time and they were writing as they did to bring a sense of history and purpose to their readers, editing the stories to that common aim. For another (only slightly more modern) example, Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain is anything but. If Geoffrey of Monmouth knew anything about British History (and I would say the jury is still out on that) he wasn't going to let that get in the way of a rollicking good tale whose purpose was to persuade the British that they shared their historical roots with the conquering French and his message was - as Safeway Supermarkets so beautifully expressed it a thousand years later "Since we're neighbours, let's be friends."


    Anyway, I digress. The songlines tells the history of a people who don't have a history as you and I know it and tells this history so beautifully and vividly that you feel that you understand. And sometimes you can tell he is making things up but by introducing these made-up parts he helps the reader understand his bigger picture.


    Back to In Patagonia. (Gasp! At last!) There are episodes there which, if you think about it, probably didn't happen the way they unfolded in the book and possibly didn't happen at all. But if they had happened then they would have made the story clearer and so he put them in. I can't really give you examples right now - both In Patagonia and The Songlines are in that shambolic book collection in England.


    Back to Seconds Out. I read it in the English translation and thoroughly enjoyed it that way.

  • I believe you are an academic, bebopalula . You certainly approach the subject in a scholarly manner, and your metaphors leap to life! Safeway, indeed.


    I see what you are saying about the technique of inserting fictional bits to fill in when actual historical facts aren’t available. Rather like the writing of a biographical novel. I’m going to have to go back to Chatwin. Thank you!