The cruel human condition on a “Train to Samarkand”

The cruel human condition on a “Train to Samarkand”
The cruel human condition on a “Train to Samarkand”

«Train to Samarkand», Beautiful Yajina ★★★★

And of the five hundred Children only their skeletons remained

Russian Guzel Yakhina continues to display her emotional and aesthetic style in a story that reflects the cruelty of the human condition

The shadow of great Russian literature, defined by its costumbrist realism and the psychological introspection of its characters, is long. Moral conflicts, historical crossroads and epic plots make up a narrative of extraordinary aesthetic impact. In this traditional expressive line is the writer and screenwriter Guzel Yakhina (Kazan, 1977), whose novel “Zuleija opens her eyes”, a story of female empowerment, is already known. She now publishes “Train to Samarkand”, a story with the genuine character of the legendary Russian soul. The action takes place in 1923, when a commander who had fought in the Russian civil war receives the order to transport five hundred children from an orphanage by train and take them to the town of Samarkand, farther away from the hardships of war. He will be accompanied in the responsibility of this evacuation by a woman belonging to a state child protection agency, a Bolshevik with strong ideological convictions. From here on, numerous adventures will occur, combining moments of extreme danger with situations of tender emotion.

The Tatar people

On the other hand, the novel vindicates the particularities of the Tatar people, to which the author belongs, in a permanent struggle for the recognition of their identity. It does not spare the harshness of lives shaken by terrible historical events; upon arriving at the orphanage, the commander finds this terrible scene: “And it was not children who were crowded there, but the skeletons of children. (…) Some chairs placed in a row and covered with rags were the improvised beds on which rested all those very fine bones and wrapped in a grayish and withered skin.”

Horrible famines, the terror of war and the cruelty of the human condition are contrasted with poignant moments of hope and selfless heroism. In the best classical realism, this is a story of impressive emotion.

▲The best: The combination of descriptive lyricism and epic narrative

▼The worst: Without further importance, some small argumentative digressions are detected

By Jesus Ferrer

«The Central», from Elisabeth Filhol ★★★★

A precarious present full of uncertainty

Élisabeth Filhol’s new work explores the appalling working conditions in nuclear reactors scattered across France

The world has become a place where everything is precarious. Love is precarious, stability is precarious, and work is precarious too. The time has long since passed when a job lasted a lifetime and did not invite mobility but prosperity.

But everything has changed and today there are thousands of men and women who move from one place to another, from one country to another, from one city to another, not in search of a better future, but rather a present that guarantees them a minimum subsistence in a world where there is no shortage of precariousness.

In La Central, a novel originally published in France in 2010, Élisabeth Filhol (Mende, 1965) explores this precariousness through Yann, one of the many temporary employees working in one of the many nuclear reactors scattered throughout France. Yann works in the cleaning and maintenance sector and his contract lasts only five weeks at most. His job, in addition to being precarious, is dangerous (like all employees, Yann is exposed to radiation) and sinister, since those who work there are constantly monitored to measure their radiation levels. If they exceed certain limits, they are fired and left without pay.

Uncertainty and necessity

Élisabeth Filhol explores this almost secret world and uncovers a social reality. The unique life of several of the forty thousand people, mostly men, who travel all over France to work in one of the fifty-six nuclear reactors in the country. People whose lives are divided between the alienating work in the power station and the campsite where they sleep, eat and share a solidarity that distances them, at least temporarily, from the tedium and fear of losing their jobs. As if that were the exact point, the French author seems to point out, where our present is found, a place, just as precarious, where uncertainty is combined, not with desire, but with need.

▲The best: It is a portrait full of nuances, the reader feels what those who work in a nuclear power plant feel.

▼The worst: There is nothing to criticize about this well-made work, but the style is a little cold.


«Beautiful lightning that lasts. Moreno Villa and Jacinta», Christopher Maurer ★★★★★

The American muse that made José Moreno Villa modern

Christopher Maurer completes his research on Florence Ruth Loucheim, the inspiration behind the collection of poems «Jacinta the redhead»

The American professor Christopher Maurer has long been one of those names we must turn to in order to learn more about the so-called Silver Age, especially in everything related to the work of García Lorca, a work that reaches its highest levels in the edition of the poet’s papers from the New York cycle or in the so-called and necessary “Complete Epistolary”, both works with Andrew A. Anderson.

But «Bello relámpago de dura» brings us closer to another author from the galaxy of 27, José Moreno Villa, by giving a name, voice (and many photographs) to the one who was the inspiring muse of one of the most outstanding poetry collections by the author from Malaga, «Jacinta la pelirroja», a breath of modernity in Spanish lyric poetry in 1929. What Maurer presents to us is a fascinating investigation that goes beyond Moreno Villa, as it is the recovery of Florence Ruth Loucheim, a woman who made the dissemination of modern art one of her main vital causes, building an impressive private collection with works by Picasso, Miró, Léger, Masson and Moore.

The Madrid of the avant-garde

The couple met in the avant-garde Madrid of 1926. She belonged to a well-off American family and he lived modestly in the Residencia de Estudiantes. Moreno Villa said that Florence “wanted to teach me English and every night we met at her house to read. From reading we moved on to drawings and from there to intimate conversations and our first kisses.”

Christopher Maurer’s work brings to light numerous documents and some give us a new dimension of what could apparently be an anecdotal episode. Maurer elevates it to another dimension: that of the modernity of an unrepeatable period. Therefore, when reading these pages, it is inevitable to think that a proper biography of 27 is necessary, and by this author.

▲The best: The book ends up being an invitation to read Moreno Villa and to delve into that era.

▼The worst: There is absolutely nothing that can be objected to in this volume.

By Victor Fernandez

«When the storm past”, Manel Loureiro ★★★★

The stormy secrets of the island of Ons

In this work, full of unexpected twists, Manel Loureiro weaves together the traumas of an analytical, brave and overwhelmed protagonist.

Faithful to the thriller set in Galicia, a genre he first ventured into with “La puerta” and continued with “La ladrona de huesos”, Loureiro now presents a story of intrigue with a frenetic pace and full of unexpected twists. The novel is set in a micro-universe far from everything and everyone with rules of coexistence and a lifestyle that escape from the conventional. A place where the electricity is cut off every day at a certain time and there is no maritime traffic that links it to the peninsula when there is a storm. Can anyone give more? It was obvious that “the bank” would win, that is: Loureiro… but you have to know how to build such Lego. The protagonist, Roberto Lobeira, is a journalist who writes books. At a certain point in the creation he realises that he needs “a quiet space” to be able to finish it. His destination is clear: the island of Ons.

Isolated from the mainland

But changes are not always good. When he arrives in the middle of winter, he discovers two things that will put the peace he was looking for in jeopardy. The first is that a storm leaves him isolated from the mainland along with the few neighbors who live there during the winter. The second is that all the parishioners keep secrets and maintain hidden tensions that they are not willing to share with the narrator. To top it off, a mysterious presence leaves “bloody gifts” on the stairs of his house trying to convey a message that he does not understand. And finally, the waves of the storm wash a bundle ashore, whose contents, when discovered by Roberto, put his priorities in order. He will no longer worry about writing a novel, but about surviving and solving all the mysteries of the island. In this new reality, readers will discover the traumas of the protagonist, always analytical and brave, but who will be overwhelmed by circumstances. Once trapped, he will reveal the secrets of the people with whom he must live. Loureiro achieves the silent pact established with the reader by fulfilling the announced promises and closing the pages with “a little more” than each one had before turning its pages.

▲The best: Loureiro knows how to play with the reader who intends to go for the challenges that are being told to him.

▼The worst: The author claims to be writing with the desire to create a visual novel… and he has achieved it!

By Angels Lopez

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