Monday, November 30, 2015

The last days of Pablo Neruda, as told by his driver and secretary

Pablo Neruda
Photo by Sara Facio

The last days of Pablo Neruda, 

as told by his driver and secretary

English version by Martin Delfín

Chilean poet assured Manuel Araya he was injected in the stomach hours before he died

Manuel Araya, who was Pablo Neruda's driver, seen this month in Isla Negra, Chile, where he lived with the poet. / SEBASTIÁN UTRERAS (EL PAÍS)

Four hours before Pablo Neruda died, allegedly from prostate cancer, the man who was taking care of him found himself unable to complete one of his last tasks: to buy his boss medicine to “alleviate the poet’s pain.”
The newly installed military dictatorship in Chile prevented him from doing so.

All of Neruda’s collaborators were forced to disappear. I am the only major one left”
Forty-two years later, Manuel Araya Osorio is out to complete his last mission: to help prove that the Nobel Prize-winning Chilean poet was poisoned while he stayed at a Santiago hospital, days before he was expected to fly into exile.
Araya, now 69, is the only known surviving witness who can recall Neruda’s final days before his death on September 23, 1973. He is convinced that Neruda didn’t die at age 69 from prostate cancer – as the official record states – but had been murdered by the military.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Chile believes it “highly likely” that poet Neruda was murdered in 1973

Chile believes it “highly likely” 

that poet Neruda was murdered in 1973

English version by Martin Delfín.


Nobel laureate’s death after Pinochet coup had always been attributed to prostate cancer

Salvador Allende y Pablo NerudaPoet Pablo Neruda (r) next to President Salvador Allende in an undated photo. / FUNDACIÓN SALVADOR ALLENDE
The Chilean government has for the first time officially recognized that Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda may have been murdered days after the 1973 bloody coup that toppled President Salvador Allende.
A Chilean Interior Ministry report obtained by EL PAÍS states that Neruda did not die as a “consequence of the prostate cancer he had,” but that “it was clearly possible and highly likely” that he was killed as a result of “the intervention of third parties.”

Neruda may have been killed as a result of “the intervention of third parties” 
Neruda died on Sunday September 23, 1973 at the Santa María Hospital in Santiago after he was taken there by his driver from his home in Isla Negra.

Judge orders exhumation of Chilean poet Neruda’s remains

Pablo Neruda

Judge orders exhumation of Chilean poet Neruda’s remains

Former driver claims Nobel Prize winner was murdered

Chilean poet Pablo Neruda.
The body of the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, who died on September 23, 1973 - 12 days after the Salvador Allende government was ousted in a bloody coup led by Augusto Pinochet - will be exhumed in the coming weeks.
Judge Mario Carroza, who is trying to clarify the circumstances of the Nobel Prize winner's death, opened an inquiry in 2011 after the Mexican magazine Proceso interviewed Manuel Osorio Araya, the poet's personal driver during the final months of his life. Osorio Araya told Proceso that Neruda was murdered by the military under Pinochet's orders. The official story for decades has been that the Communist intellectual died of prostate cancer shortly after the overthrow of President Allende.
No date has been set as to when the remains of Neruda - who is buried near his home in Isla Negra - will be exhumed, but it could be carried out as early as next month. The Pablo Neruda Foundation, which confirmed the judge's ruling on Friday after the web portal El Mostrador reported it, said it will cooperate with the investigation.

The Foundation has always expressed its willingness to cooperate with the investigation that is to be carried out by Judge Carroza"
"The Foundation has always expressed its willingness to cooperate with the investigation that is to be carried out by Judge Carroza, and trusts that the experts' inquiry will be conducted with the utmost respect and care possible."
After September 11, the poet was heading into exile in Mexico with his wife Matilda. "The plan was to overthrow the tyrant from abroad in less than three months. We were going to ask the world to help oust Pinochet. But before he took the plane after he was admitted to a clinic, they gave him a lethal injection in his stomach," Araya told EL PAÍS in December 2011.

Was poet Pablo Neruda murdered?

Pablo Neruda

Was poet Pablo Neruda murdered?

Former driver's testimony has led to court inquiry into allegations that the Chilean Nobel Prize winner was killed while waiting to go into exile


Pablo Neruda's death certificate says the beloved poet died from prostate cancer on September 23, 1973 - just less than two weeks after his friend and fellow Marxist, President Salvador Allende, was deposed in a bloody coup. But nearly 40 years after his death, and the events that plunged Chile into one of the darkest periods of its modern history, Neruda's former driver has created a commotion by coming forward to charge that the poet was murdered under the orders of dictator Augusto Pinochet.
"After the September 11 coup, he was planning to go into exile with his wife Matilde. The plan was to try to overthrow the dictator within three months from abroad. He was going to ask the world to help overthrow Pinochet but before he could board a plane the plotters took advantage of the fact that he had been admitted to a hospital, and that's where they injected him in his stomach with poison," claims Manuel del Carmen Araya Osorio, a 65-year-old taxi driver.
His version, which was first published in the well-respected Mexican magazine Proceso, provoked the Chilean Communist Party, of which the poet was a member, to demand a judicial investigation into the causes of Neruda's death.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Léa Seydoux / Meet the Chic 'Spectre' Bond Girl

Lea Seydoux in 'Spectre.' The French actress best known for her role in the award-winning 'Blue Is the Warmest Color' is the latest addition to the Bond girl canon. 

Léa Seydoux: 

Meet the Chic 'Spectre' Bond Girl

How a 'street' kid from Paris became 007's coolest leading lady in ages

By Alex Morris 

I learned from the streets," says actress Léa Seydoux, perched on a plush sofa in the bar of New York's Bowery Hotel. "I mean, I'm not, like, Jay Z," she adds, laughing through the gap in her front teeth. "But in a way, I really did my own education."

It was "the life of freedom, being your own boss" that drew Seydoux, 30, to acting. She had her breakout performance in the 2013 French film
 Blue Is the Warmest Color, which featured a now-legendary seven-minute lesbian sex scene and won her a Palme d'Or at Cannes. Right now you can catch her as the newest Bond girl in Spectre, opposite Daniel Craig. It's by far the most high-profile role yet for an actress with deep art-house roots. "I thought, 'Oh, it's never going to work, all the other girls will want [the part],'" she says.The "streets," in Seydoux's case, were the boulevards of Paris' Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood, historically the city's cultural center, where, thanks to her parents' bohemian tendencies, she was often left to her own devices. "I've always felt like an orphan," says the actress, who was one of seven kids. "I didn't have any structure."
In fact, Seydoux was used to being the misfit in a glittery world. Her father is CEO of the wireless company Parrot, and, in Seydoux's words, a "genius" engineer; her mother a philanthropist whose work often took her to Africa. Her family had entertainment-world connections thanks to her grandfather, a film producer, and she remembers childhood encounters with Mick Jagger and Lou Reed. But Seydoux was also left to wander the streets "badly dressed and in too-small shoes. And I had lice," she recalls. "I would ask girls to come to my house and play, and they were like, 'No, my mother doesn't want it, there's no supervision.'"
Seydoux started acting when she was 18, taking up a profession no one in her family had envisioned for her. "When I said, 'I want to be an actress,' my parents were like, 'Bullshit. Try if you want, but it's never going to work.' " But after becoming a fixture of French cinema, she was cast in Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris and as a farm girl being questioned by Nazi soldiers in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds. Her upbringing helped prepare her for her character in Spectre, an assassin's daughter who shares Seydoux's "instinct de vie" – the scrappy survival skills of someone burying her past. "Acting, you play a role every time," she says softly. "So it was made for me because, in a way, I can hide."

Friday, November 27, 2015

Leonardo Padura / Top 10 Cuban novels

Leonardo Padura's top 10 Cuban novels

Hemingway and Hijuelos are here, but the author of the Havana Quartet also looks beyond the Cuba we think we know to introduce some of the island's more hidden literary treasures

Leonardo Padura was born in 1955 in Havana and lives in Cuba. He has published a number of short-story collections and literary essays but international fame came with the Havana Quartet, all featuring Inspector Mario Conde. Like many others of his generation, Padura had faced the question of leaving Cuba, particularly in the late 80s and early 90s, when living conditions deteriorated sharply as Russian aid evaporated. He chose to stay.

Cuba is a country of poets. It would almost be too easy to select 10 poets or books of poetry that play a key role in the short history of Cuban literature. But there are excellent – and diverse – Cuban novelists, too few of whom are available in English translation. The 10 I've picked here will hopefully give some idea of both the country's literary tradition, and its imaginative life.

Street Art
Havana, 2015
Photo by Triunfo Arciniegas

1. Explosion in a Cathedral (El siglo de las luces) by Alejo Carpentier (1962, trans. John Sturrock)

I am convinced that this is the highpoint of the Cuban novel, the perfect fiction and supreme expression of stylistic and conceptual ambition in narrative prose. In this account of the impact of the French Revolution in the Caribbean, the theme is the tragic destiny that awaits all revolutions: the failure of their grand aims and the perversion of their beautiful ideals.

2. Cecilia Valdés Or El Angel Hill (Cecilia Valdés) by Cirilo Villaverde (1882, trans. Helen Lane)

This is considered to be one of the best examples of 19th century realism and romanticism in Spanish and the finest evocation of Cuban customs of that era. Its characters departed the novel's pages long ago to become prototypes of what it means to be Cuban. The most beautiful and tragic love story ever written in Cuba, it also encompasses the horrors of the African slave trade and gives full literary expression to the city of Havana. It is the classic.

3. Three Trapped Tigers (Tres tristes tigres) by Guillermo Cabrera Infante (1967, trans. Suzanne Jill Levine & Donald Gardner)

This is the book which created a literary language of Havana. It's a kind of cathedral of words, and no translation could do it full justice, but readers throughout the world have enjoyed Cabrera Infante's fiction thanks to his wit and the stories he welds together in an unrivalled portrait of 1950s Havana nightlife, the golden age of Cuban music and the city. Once you've read this, Havana will never look the same again.

4. Paradiso by José Lezama Lima (1974, trans. Gregory Rabassa)

Admired rather than read or valued, and in many ways poetry rather than fiction, Paradiso is one of the most influential novels in the Spanish language. Written in a completely different register to the baroque of Carpentier or colloquial of Cabrera Infante, the author's mastery of language has created a whole school of "Lezamian" writers. In Paradiso, as in any poet's novel, the way the story is told is more important than the story itself and the digressions much more than mere anecdotes. It is a magnificent exercise in style.

5. The Lost Steps (Los pasos perdidos) by Alejo Carpentier (1953, trans. Harriet de Onís)

Carpentier yet again: we could also include in this list his 1949 novel The Kingdom of This World (1957), which gave birth to the aesthetic of "the real and marvellous from America". As in all his work, Carpentier's perspective is universal: he uses the journey of a western intellectual to the heart of the South American jungle to narrate the physical possibility of going back in time to the origins of civilisation. Its great merit, however, is the way it makes us feel the vicissitudes experienced by the novel's musician protagonist, who understands that individuals have no choice but to accept the time and history fate has dealt them.

6. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway (1952)

This is, of course, the best-known novel about Cuba by a non-Cuban author. And that's fair enough: thanks to The Old Man and The Sea Hemingway was awarded the Nobel prize, the gold medal for which still sits in the famous shrine to Our Lady of Charity at El Cobre, the Caribbean version of the Virgin Mary who is Cuba's patron saint. Although it merely recounts the story of a fisherman who after eighty-four days of "bad luck" finally makes a big catch, the novel is also about man's willpower and spirit of endurance. A beautiful fable for the human condition.

7. Temporada de ángeles (1983), Lisandro Otero; A Season For Angels, not translated.

Another great Cuban novel that is not set in Cuba: it goes back to the English Industrial Revolution, the beheading of Charles I and rule by Oliver Cromwell. It too makes a critique, from a literary perspective, of the fate of the great ideals of justice, freedom and equality. And of the perversity of politicians.

8. The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love (1989), Óscar Hijuelos

Hijuelos was born in Cuba but has lived in the United States from childhood and wrote this Pulitzer-prize winning work in English. Significantly, it is a novel created from all the stereotypical features that have gone into the construction of the image of Cubans for foreigners: their music, dancing, passion as lovers and romantic, rebellious spirit. Although there are more important novels written in Cuba from a literary point of view, the great international success of The Mambo Kings and its nostalgic portrait of a Cuba that is more dream than reality, make it a necessary player in the field of the Cuban novel.

9. Antes que anochezca (1990), Reinaldo Arenas; Before Night Falls, trans. Dolores M. Koch (1993)

A novel in every sense of the word, even though the raw materials are more or less real episodes from the more or less real life of its author, Reinaldo Arenas, one of the most intense, maudit, and visceral of Cuban writers. Arenas wrote and published this heartrending work just before his lonely and equally heartrending death in freezing New York. Its style, exuberance and rage are the stuff of great fiction, as was its author.

10. El negrero (1933), Lino Novás Calvo; The Slave-trader, not translated

This novel doesn't take place in Cuba, but mainly in the slave-trading centres on the coasts of Africa and in the boats that transported their human cargo to the island: the Africans who have contributed so much to Cuba's economic, cultural, religious and ethnic riches. The Slave-trader (the story of Pedro Blanco from Málaga, one of the last slave-traders from the middle of the 19th century) is a wonderful novel that, alongside Faulkner's, inspired Gabriel García Márquez and Juan Rulfo, the creators of the Latin American magical-realist novel.

Translated by Peter Bush

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Cabrera Infante by Oscar Hijuelos

Guillermo Cabrera Infante
Poster by T.A.

Guillermo Cabrera Infante

by Oscar Hijuelos

In 1964, Guillermo Cabrera Infante’s most famous book, Three Trapped Tigers—an ingenious jazz-rich novel about pre-Castro Havana—brought him to the world’s attention as part of the Latin American boom, but all his works are unique and rewarding. A partial list of the many books he has written includes View of Dawn in the Tropics (1974), Infante’s Inferno (1984) andHoly Smoke (1985). A must for readers of literature, Cabrera Infante’s books are a fantastic distillation of a unique and impassioned—quite Cuban—consciousness. A self-described “writer of fragments,” his narratives about memory, life and history are often funny, always interesting and, from the point of view of the writer’s craft, complex and instructive. As the limitations of space prevent me from the critical appreciation his deeply inventive books deserve, I will speak briefly about the circumstances of this interview. It was conducted by fax, and quickly, due to my own travels and Cabrera Infante’s pressing schedule in London, where he lives with his wife Miriam; we have known each other for ten years. He is a friendly, circumspect, immensely approachable man with a capricious and alert mind. A master writer who, in this context, answers a few questions from an apprentice.
Oscar Hijuelos When you were a child in Cuba what were your first exposures to the notion of narrative?
Guillermo Cabrera Infante As a child I was exposed to the narratives of the movies. But the funnies (or monitos as they were called; in Havana we called them muñequitos) were as important—if not more so. The radio came later, where I heard a series of episodes or comedy programs. I was, by the way, the only one of my friends and/or classmates who read the funnies or could tell the difference between the movies and the serials. From the comic books in Havana I learned that a strip could be a trip, as in The Spirit, where Will Eisner’s heroes were always dressed in blue (blue suits, blue felt hat, blue gloves) and had a sidekick who was a black boy, called Ebony in Cuba as in Ebony Concerto. Serials like The Three Daredevils of the Red Circle (the titles are approximations of the Spanish ones) were exercises in waiting for the Coming Attractions. It is rather baffling—at least to me—that there were more thrills in the funnies than in the movies. I taught myself to read by deciphering the inscriptions in the balloons because my father or my mother was fed up with my insistence on instant gratification by translation. They were all, as it should be, forms of popular art more pertinent than literature then.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Guillermo Cabrera Infante / Bites from the Bearded Crocodile

Guillermo Cabrera Infante y Miriam Gómez
Photo by Sara Facio

Bites from the Bearded Crocodile

By Guillermo Cabrera Infante

The decline of the so-called Cuban cultural renaissance started when Virgilio Pinera came down the ladder of the Czech airplane that brought him back from Brussels via Prague. He deplaned with mincing steps and, fluttering like a tropical butterfly suddenly sprung alive from a collector’s case, stopped briefly and then kneeled and leaned forward to kiss the red Cuban soil – only to smack the tarmac instead. (This gesture proved to be some sort of near-miss-cum-hubris for, you see, the runway had recently been covered with a Russian blacktop.) Though it didn’t really all begin then, but a few months earlier when Lunes, the literary supplement of the newspaperRevolucion, on which Virgilio Pinera was one of the principal collaborators (the word was usually meant in its second sense), was banned and closed down for good. Only it didn’t begin then either, but when they censored and sequestered PM, a documentary sponsored by Lunes that didn’t have any political content to warrant the seizure. That was really the beginning of the end. But let’s start at the very beginning – which was when dictator Batista decided to flee instead of fighting and the 26th of July Movement took over the Government in the name of the Revolution, its martyrs and the poor people of Cuba.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Game of Thrones / Jon Snow is back, so get set for a wild season six

Game of Thrones: Jon Snow is back, so get set for a wild season six

HBO’s teaser poster suggests that the character is alive after all. Far from a cheap soap opera move, it suggests the show will become more gripping than ever

The worst-kept secret in television finally leaked on Monday as HBO and Sky Atlantic released the first promo art for the sixth season of Game of Thrones: a picture of Jon Snow looking suitably haggard, with blood pouring from one eye down his cheek. 

At this point I would normally write something along the lines of “don’t read any further if you don’t want to be spoiled” but it’s arguable that if it’s the TV station that airs the show doing the spoiling then it’s already a pretty moot point.

Rumours that Jon’s death was not all it appeared have been growing since summer. While Kit Harington, the actor who plays the heroic 998th Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, initially insisted that his time on the show was over after Jon’s brutal stabbing, he was subsequently snapped filming in Belfast amid rumours of an epic battle scene at The Wall (yes, another, it’s a hard place to conquer). Jon, it appears, is also a hard man to kill.

So what does this latest suggestion of his survival (something which has not been officially confirmed in the books with author George RR Martin recently suggesting that fans should read The Winds of Winter when its published if they want to uncover his fate) mean for the series?

First, it confirms that next year will be something of a wild ride for both book and TV fans as we head into the unknown and the probability that for the first time ever a TV series will potentially be spoiling the books on which it is based.

Secondly, it marks something of a deviation for this show, which has previously prided itself on the fact that if a character is dead, they stay dead. No matter how important they might be. This is Game of Thrones after all, the show that killed Ned Stark in the first series, that wiped out half the cast in The Red Wedding and that has never worried about introducing popular characters only to gruesomely off them.

By those standards bringing Jon Snow back from the dead could be seen as, well, something of a cop out – the sort of thing that happens in soapier dramas, which tease the audience with the possible deaths of their heroes and heroines only to swiftly reassure you that no, of course they didn’t die.

Well rein in that irritation for a second because there is, at least, precedence here. It has been well established over the course of five seasons that, since Daenerys Targaryen hatched her dragons, magic has been growing stronger throughout Westeros and Essos, meaning that things that might not previously have been possible are increasingly likely.

We’ve also been introduced to Thoros of Myr, a Red Priest with a particular talent for bringing the dead back to life, who has worked his magic on the leader of the Brotherhood without Banners, Beric Dondarrion – a man who happens to wear an eye patch, which is interesting given that on the promo poster there seems to be a bloody hole where Jon’s own eye should be. Given that the somewhat spooky Melisandre, also a Red Priest, was last seen arriving back at Castle Black, having abandoned Stannis Baratheon to his fate, it would seem likely that a swift resurrection with some rather unpleasant strings attached is in the cards.

Because that’s the thing about Game of Thrones: yes, Jon coming back to life might initially appear like a cheat but in the world of the show it almost certainly makes sense. Will things be on the up for the former Lord Commander next season? Given his life so far I rather doubt it, just as I doubt that the Red Priests resurrect the dead for fun. Perhaps Lord Snow (as Ser Alliser Thorne so sneeringly calls him) would be best to take comfort from the fatalistic words of House Greyjoy: “What is dead, can never die” as he begins his next life in the new season.


Sunday, November 22, 2015

Adele / I can finally reach out a hand to my ex. Let him know I’m over it

‘I can finally reach out a hand to my ex. Let him know I’m over it’

It’s been a long road to album number three for Adele, via global stardom, writer’s block, and the birth of her son. With ‘25’ about to drop, she talks frankly to 
 about her time away, and gives him a tour of the new songs
Sunday 15 November 2015 
On a sunless and sopping morning in October, Adele arrives at the London offices of XL Recordings carrying a tea in one hand, a phone in the other, and the fortunes of the global music industry in her handbag. “Been sleeping with this chained to my wrist,” says Adele, of a slim silver laptop she removes from the bag. “Naaah. Who do you think I am, a Russian gangster? I just keep it next to my bed.” Inside a soundproofed lounge at XL, a room that’s messy and dorm-like, with old newspaper pull-outs and apple cores left lying about, Adele squats next to an amplifier. She tugs at wires, punches at buttons, trying to hook up her laptop for sound.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Adele's 25 set to break UK first-week album sales record


Adele's 25 set to break UK first-week album sales record

Having sold 300,000 copies on its first day, the singer has Oasis’s total of over 690,000 for Be Here Now in her sights

BY Chris Johnston
Saturday 21 November 2015 14.17 GMT

Adele is on track to set a new record for first-week sales after her latest album sold 300,000 copies in the UK on its first day.
The total for the singer’s third LP, 25, is second only to the third Oasis album, Be Here Now, which sold 424,000 copies on its release day in August 1997.
The Oasis album holds the record for the most first-week sales, with 695,761 copies. It is trailed by Take That’s Progress, which sold 518,601 copies in its first week in November 2010.
They remain the only two albums to crack the half-million barrier in their first week in the UK.
Martin Talbot, chief executive of the Official Charts Company, said: “Adele truly is a once-in-a-generation artist. Her appeal spans age groups and genres, from children to teenagers, right through to mums and dads, uncles and aunties. 

“With this mammoth first-day sales tally, Adele has taken a further step towards greatness. Over the next few days we will find out whether it can pass the magic half a million sales mark.”
Sales of 25 will have been boosted by the decision to keep the album off streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music.
Industry sources expect the album to sell about 700,000 copies in the UK in its first week, while the US total could be 2.5m. About 1m CDs have been distributed to UK stores, with 3.6m shipped across the US.
An astonishing 30m copies of Adele’s previous album, 21, have been sold globally since it was released in January 2011, making it the UK’s bestselling album that year – and in 2012 as well. US sales accounted for more than a third of the total.
It sold just 208,000 copies in the UK in its first week and took a month to pass the half-million mark.
In comparison, Taylor Swift’s album 1989 has shifted almost 9m copies since it was released in October 2014, with almost 1.3m in the US in its first week.
Some reviewers have criticised Adele for failing to break the mould with her latest work, with the Guardian’s Alexis Petridis concluding: “25’s big issue is that, in every sense, it dwells a little too heavily on the past.”
He gave it three stars, while Neil McCormick in the Telegraph went all the way with five stars.
“You can detect nods to Lionel Richie, Phil Collins, Carole King, Burt Bacharach ... but it would be churlish to carp when pop doesn’t come much more perfect than this.”