I just started reading The Piano Cemetery by José Luis Peixoto. It’s a fictional account of the life of the Portugese athlete Francisco Lazaro. I’ve been looking forward to read this novel for a while, I’d first read about it in an article in In Other Words, the journal for literary translators in the UK, written by the translator, Daniel Hahn. I enjoyed another Hahn translation previously: The Rainy Season by José Eduardo Agualusa, and I already love this one too. I find the narration cinematic: we listen to the narration by a man who’s now dead, we zoom on the fine moustache of a finely dressed Italian gentleman, we watch events unfold in slow motion, and catch a lot of visual details including the matchbox spotted with fat, and the rust-stained mirror in the bathroom. Although the first 2o pages that I’ve read cover the loss of a family member, ensuing financial difficulties and professional struggles – and a little girl cutting herself with broken glass – it’s the not the least depressing, quite calming on the contrary. I’d like to quote a passage here which reminds me of my childhood on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey:
“Throughout my childhood, on certain evenings, my mother would boil a pan of water and ask me to go out to the yard to fetch a leaf from the lemon tree. Our lemon tree had large, thick leaves, hard to detach and noisy as I tore them from the lower branches. My mother would wash the leaf and submerge it in the boiling water to make our tea. It was at that moment that she would bring to the middle of the table a parcel wrapped in brown paper which, very slowly, under my gaze, she would open. In it were two cakes she bought from the bakery and which she would cut in half with the tip of her knife. I’d get up on a stool and take two mugs out of the cupboard. We would sit at the table, mother and son, eating our halves of cake and drinking tea (p 12).
I’ll write something more detailed, along with how the translator laid additional runners on the corridors of the novel, once I finish it.