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10 thoughts on “Norte

  1. says:

    the third novel from bolivian author and cornell professor edmundo paz soldán to be rendered into english norte weaves together three disparate but not entirely unrelated narratives featuring immigrant characters from mexico and argentina two of the threads are inspired by real life individuals ángel maturino reséndiz the railroad killer and martín ramírez a self taught schizophrenic folk artist contending with the personal politics of displacement paz soldán's novel isn't so much a work about the emigrantimmigrant experience in general but instead a foray into the lives of three uite distinct people and how they've adapted or not to their adopted home country with graphic detailed scenes of rape mutilation and murder many readers will likely be put off though paz soldán's use of vicious ruthless violence based as it is again on the life of an actual serial killer never veers into the gratuitous norte succeeds on nearly every level with a compelling pace that is as relentless as it ultimately is revealing norte will undoubtedly appeal to fans of bolaño as will the in text nods to the late chilean author but is likely accessible to a general reader given the current american political milieu paz soldán's novel takes on an especially timely resonance norte doesn't offer any answers about the ongoing immigration debate nor does it strive to but in portraying the contrasting diverging fates of his three main characters paz soldán effortlessly broadens our perspectives on the singularity of human lives their ultimate interconnection and the innate yearning for something forever beyond ourselves he let him walk how many times on his beat as a ranger had he stopped a car for a broken taillight or an expired inspection sticker to find that the driver was a frightened illegal? he felt sorry for them and let them go he'd give them a break and who knows maybe now they were doing better than he was but did any of it matter now? all his effort and the hard work of so many other people would be eclipsed by the media frenzy and people who wouldn't remember anything else but the one illegal who was a killer translated from the spanish by valerie miles vila matas busuets a thousand forests in one acorn editor and co founder of granta en español45 stars

  2. says:

    Dick LitI picked that term up from Tatiana's review of another book with North in the title North Water She defines the term as pseudo manly books like The North Water which pretends to be some kind of deep tough literature but fails to hide that its author has an almost juvenile obsession with violence gore and bowel movements That seems fitting hereWhich isn't necessarily to say that Paz Soldán isn't a good writer He is a compelling one the story moves And even as it does it's obvious he's staking out meaning on a number of different levels some of which bear attention and study than others The book comprises three stories on at different time periods that seem to intersect only faintly at least in terms of the characters meeting or hearing about one anotherBut he draws other connections among them with images a Saturday Evening Post cover and word choice And thematically There's the repeated uestion of people being unable to find their voice to say what needs to be said one character refuses to speak much at all Another is slow to learn to write A third is searching for her voice the novel reaching its conclusion when she thinks she hasThere's also the connection to Bolaño especially The Savage Detectives There are savages of various sorts here detectives and Latin Americans lost in a wider worldThere's also the uestion of the way that the United States screws up the identities of Mexicans and people of Mexican heritage it literally makes their identity problematic the border not only on a map but something that cuts through them Which is all well and good though to be honest I didn't feel that there was much life behind these themes Paz Soldán is an academic and it always felt as though the book was written to be analyzed by academicsThere's also the problem of the book treading on familiar territory Much of the action takes place in a Texas university town too may novels are set in colleges It is true that Paz Soldán is critical of academia sometimes lightly sometimes subtly and ferociously suggesting that Professors are in some sense scavengers picking the bones off of those who do actual work exploiting them for their own gain but he's neither the first second or last writer to un sheath the knives for academiaThe other two stories are also fairly familiar There's the misunderstood artist in the insane asylum And the serial killer Again he tries to destabilize these to an extent the serial killer is an illegal immigrant which would seem to go against his own sympathies as an author but the attempt seems too calculated It doesn't help that the serial killer storyline is also police procedural in which he gets to explain why the illegal immigrant serial killer does not undermine the plight of other undocumented people in America I agree but once the point seems pedanticThe bigger issue I have is the needless violence In the afterword the translator said that she and Paz Soldán worked hard to not make the violence gratuitous I understand that she had a complicated task a Bolivian author living in the US writing about Mexican characters learning American ways and if I understood Spanish and could compare the original ti the translation I might have been very impressedAs it is though she failed on keeping down the gratuity of the violence The opening chapter opens up with vivid descriptions of violence against women that are underexplained and overdescribed and the assaults they don't stop So much of the identity crisis is expressed by violating women's bodies; that may be the point but Paz Soldán doesn't do much to explore this only takes it for granted I think perhaps the reason the only first person character is female is to balance the scales but she is also a very passive indecisive character so it doesn't help muchAt any rate the violence seems put here to make the book feel gritty and real and authentic but I generally found it unnecessary and off putting like showing off Instead of making the book feel adult it felt puerile

  3. says:

    I read the English translation This is a tough book from three perspectives but one is a serial rapistmurderer which caught me off guard It’s well written and the stories are loosely woven together However once I read the translator’s notes which are at the end the book made MUCH sense and I wish I read this in Spanish

  4. says:

    When I started reading Norte I actually thought it was too dark but as I continued the reading it grew on me and like all of the books by Edmundo Paz Soldán I couldn't put it down until the end

  5. says:

    TW graphic scenes of rape murder mutilationNorte is Bolivian author Edmundo Paz Soldan's third novel originally written in Spanish and translated into English There are three distinctly related narrative threads within this novel two of which are inspired by real people The first is the story of Jesus a ruthless serial killer based on the life of Angel Maturino Resendiz who hopped freight trains throughout the US and murdered his victims in their homes near railroads from the mid 80s and throughout the 90s The second is the story of Martin based on the life of Martin Ramirez a self taught schizophrenic artist who languished in California's mental hospitals for thirty years before dying in one in 1963 The third is the present day story of Michelle and Fabian a Bolivian and Argentinian artist couple struggling with drugs and depressionThis book is not so much about the immigrant experience but about the pain of displacement and loss and being in places unfamiliar and strange and far from home All four of the main characters struggle with madness a theme that runs prominently throughout the novel Martin's and Michelle's art is inspired by voices and the shifts in their environment Jesus' acts are also inspired by voices that command him to kill women Jesus is a highly repugnant character perhaps one of the most awful people I've ever had the displeasure of reading about There are very graphic and detailed scenes of rape murder and mutilation in this book The target of Jesus' violence is women which he possesses a pathological hatred for I can see where this would probably turn a good number of readers off though personally I did not feel that the violence was too gratuitous reminder we are talking about a serial killer after all Overall I liked this book and found it to be very readable Four stars

  6. says:

    I checked Norte out from the library based entirely on the cover and book title They caught my eye and intrigued me so much that I didn't even read the synopsis before starting the story and I'm glad I went that route The first few chapters are shocking though really no so than the rest of the book and the story as a whole is kind of confusing right up until the end That's not to say that Edmundo Paz Soldan has written a story that could easily be summed up or tied together in a few pages It's that everything is woven together so neatly but still a little chaotically and you end up so enmeshed in the characters' stories that it's hard to see the events and themes that connect them all If you struggle to get through the first three parts of the book as I did really I was so confused and had a hard time seeing each character as anything other than one dimensional please keep reading This book is worth your time

  7. says:

    Wow I feel a little rinsed out from this book And almost find it disturbing that two of the characters are based on real life people One I felt terribly sorry for and one who was truly horrifying The first chapter is harrowing and VERY graphic possibly a little to much so a continued but only uibble I have with the book But if you can get past that I think it is a fabulous read Particularly compelling in the current climate regarding migrants both legal and not

  8. says:

    Three inconsistent stories that were not overly interesting or original

  9. says:

    Right wing border stereotypes—plus psychosis times 2 Senseless violence rape murder Incarceration to no good end Three separate narratives that fail to converge Disappointing

  10. says:

    LITERARY FICTIONEdmundo Paz SoldánTranslated from the Spanish by Valerie MilesNorte A NovelUniversity of Chicago PressPaperback 978 0 2262 0720 9 also available as an e book 312 pgs 1800October 26 2016 ‘In Spanish there’s an expression “perder el norte” which means to lose one’s way to lose sight of a goal to lose control to lose the sense of where is up and where is down on a compass’ Three tales are told in Norte that of Jesús a serial killer from Northern Mexico who rides the rails across the United States; that of Michelle an aspiring graphic novelist and dropout from a Latin American literature doctoral program in Texas; and that of Martín a schizophrenic artist locked in a California asylum whose works eventually hang in the Guggenheim and the Smithsonian Each of these characters have immigrant origins some legal others not Argentina Bolivia Mexico Everyone here is addicted to something substances sensations emotions people power; and none of their American dreams are turning out as they’d hoped Norte an unflinching exploration of displaced people “my wife and children are here Your Honor I’m a political refugee from my country Your Honor if you send me back the narcos are going to kill me Your Honor Your Honor Mister Lawyer sir mister mister please please please” and physical and emotional violence is Edmundo Paz Soldán’s ninth novel and the third to be translated into English Originally from Bolivia Paz Soldán is a professor of Latin American literature at Cornell University His previous works have won the Bolivian National Book Award and the Juan Rulfo Short Story Award among others Valerie Miles translator editor writer and professor of literary translation at Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona Spain translated Norte from the Spanish Norte’s construction is unusual a series of linked short stories than a novel The narratives move backward and forward in time between 1931 and 2009 and the settings range from Texas to California to Mexico and roam the country with Jesús on the railroads In the end these narratives come together in creative and unexpected ways In unadorned prose with a noir ish uality Paz Soldán shifts seamlessly between characters settings and perspectives conveying stark contrasts Jesús is uneducated crude and psychotic; Michelle is educated middle class and aimless; Martín is haunted anxious and poignant Jesús’s and Martín’s narratives are told in third person Michelle’s in first person Norte seems to draw from Paz Soldán’s biography He pokes fun at the insular academic world “so self absorbed fascinated at hearing ourselves speak” and Michelle’s creative breakthrough mirrors his own experience with the development of Norte Paz Soldán also draws from actual people and events Jesús was inspired by the real Railroad Killer and Martín is Martín Ramírez whose works do hang in museums throughout the world Paz Soldán’s channeling of Martín’s inner world is particularly moving his imagery evocative “Shadows conspired with each other along the rooftops” The publication of the English edition of Norte couldn’t be timely “Or what if nobody was forced to migrate any? Leaving one’s place on earth is a cruel experience”Originally published in Lone Star Literary Life

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Norte Three unconnected men travel north each passing in isolation over one of the most troubled and controversial dividing lines in the world the Mexico US border But in a melee of language and blood their stories—of a young serial killer a professor and his lover a graduate student who writes graphic novels and an outsider artist in a mental institution—gradually begin to coalesce Daring in both its protagonists and its structure Edmundo Paz Soldán’s Norte is a fast paced vivid and operatic blending of distinct voices Together they lay bare the darkness of the line over which these men—like so many others—have passed A prominent member of a new generation of Latin American writers Paz Soldán stands in defiant opposition to the magical realism of the past century instead grounding his work in political economic and historical realities Norte is no exception; it is a tale of displacement and the very human costs of immigration Shocking with its violence even as it thrills with its language confounding rather than cowing under the cliché of the murderous drug dealing immigrant Norte is a disuieting imperative work—an undeniable reflection of our fragmented modern world