Agony and Antagony

A book I haven’t read

Don’t you hate those cute titles for blog posts like the one I have just used? I certainly do. I read most blogs through my News Reader, which gives the title of the blog post. If it has a cutesy title like the one above I am inclined to ignore it. (I am also inclined to ignore it if it has no title, as is the case with Blog of a Bookslut but that is another story.) But i could not resist this one. About ten days ago, I was foolishly lifting some heavy stones for use in my garden and I strained something in my lower back. I say foolishly, as I have had back problems most of my adult life, so it was silly to take the chance. But I did. And now I am paying the price. As a result, I decided to relax a bit (yes, I now know that you shouldn’t relax but I did) and read a book.

Not available in English

And what better book to read than a 1100+ page Spanish novel that has not been translated into English (or any other language but Polish)? In my review of the book on my website, I have translated the Spanish Antagonía as Antagonism, the normal English word for this concept. However, the 1913 Webster had the word antagony, quoting Milton as a source, so I am justified, I feel, in using it here, even though it is not a word used anymore, as far as I am aware. My review gives my views on the book which I did enjoy, though found relatively hard going. There has been a lot about the big US novels – you will find plenty on my site- but there are plenty big European novels that don’t get the publicity, often because they are not available in English. Proust and Joyce, whom I mention in my review are, of course, well known but they are readily available in English. Georges Duhamel‘s Pasquier and Salavin novel sequences are available but are less well-known. Anton Tammsaare‘s Tõde ja õigus (Truth and Justice) series has been translated into French, German and Russian and (partially) into Dutch but not into English. In my post on Montenegro, I mentioned Borislav Pekić‘s His seven-volume Zlatno runo (Golden Fleece), part of which has been translated into French but none of it into English. Miklós Szentkuthy‘s Saint Orpheus’s Breviary sequence has been partially translated into French but the only first novel in the sequence has been translated into English. Miklos Bánffy‘s Transylvanian Trilogy has been translated into English – and an excellent trilogy it is – but is not too well known. These and others are sadly not well-known in the English-speaking world. To be fair, one or two big foreign novels have done well in the English-speaking world but not nearly enough.

A book I have read

As mentioned in the review, Antagonía is not an easy book to read, but then nor are many of the ones mentioned above, particularly the Joyce and Proust. However, I spent ten days reading Antagonía and got very much absorbed into it, the way I got absorbed into the Joyce, Proust, Murakami and Bolaño novels mentioned above and I think it is a pity that it has such a fine reputation in Spain but is unknown in the English-speaking world and is likely to remain so. As is the case with Pekić, Tammsaare and Szentkuthy (and many others I have not mentioned or am unaware of). I do not intend to lift many more heavy stones in order to read any other 1100 page novels. While this is certainly the longest novel I have read this year (though another one came fairly close), I am very glad to have read it and did enjoy getting into Goytisolo’s world. Meanwhile, my back is still sore but I am now going to exercise it somewhat, by walking rather than lifting, but hope to find time for some more long novels.

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