Review: The Loop by Brenda Lozano, translated by Annie McDermott

“Writing is my way of being a cat and shedding fur, or phrases, onto the armchair.”

“My notebook is my guitar though its not always in tune.”

“My notebook is my waiting room.”

My Interest

I have been keeping an eye out for interesting books for Spanish and Portuguese Lit month and this one sounded very interesting. I admit I had a few qualms about “stream of consciousness” though. It won an award called PEN Translates which aims to encourage UK publishers to bring out more books translated from other languages. (It is not the same as the Pen Translation Prize).

The Story

“Unlearning yourself is more important than knowing yourself.”

“Does this story contain all the stories I am?”

“Waiting. It never stars, never ends. We never arrive. We arrive somewhere like Lisbon, but never at a conclusion.”

“The foreign country of adult life.”

The narrator is recovering from some sort of accident. Her guy, Jonas, is away. This gives rise to her telling lots of interesting bon mots, some little stories, little notes, factoids, vignettes, a bit of narrative, a few paragraphs, facts or factoids populate most of this story–most with a good deal of reflection on life. All are written in the ideal notebook while she is recovering. Some repeat a bit on a sort of loop, but I have no idea if that is why the title was chosen.

Some favorite quotes:

“I remember there’s a point in Waiting for Godot when the characters swap hats again and again. A bit like politicians.” [see the bottom of this post]

“What would the ideal politician be like?…Instead we are stuck with cartoons. And they do too much harm.”

“Neurotic people who need positions of power. Stupid people who need someone even more stupid next to them. Insecure people need the approval of strangers. Loyal people surrounded by traitors.”

“Its almost like childhood is the origin of fiction: describing any past event over and over to see how far away you’re getting from reality.”

My Thoughts

Having just endured that “surreal” mess translated from Spanish, I went into this one a bit leery, but was pleasantly surprised. Overall, I thought the premise worked very well. I was often able to relate to what the author was thinking or “saying” in that notebook of hers. I wish I’d bought this so I can keep all the quotes I highlighted in the e-text of this book. It was such fun.

The Loop by Brenda Lozano, translated by Annie McDermott

My Verdict



Spanish/Portuguese Lit Month Review: Portrait of an Unknown Lady by Maria Gainza translated by Thomas Bunstead

My Interest

In the last few years, I’ve enjoyed participating each July in Spanish and Portuguese Literature challenges hosted by blogger Winston’s Dad, so this year I kept a look out for new books to for this challenge.  The NY Times list of new translated books caught my attention. This book was in it and, happily, was novella length, and (best of all) was about 4 1/2 hours on audio. Perfect for my current attention span!


The Story

What caught my eye about the story, beyond being set in Argentina (a country I have not “read” before) and being translated into Spanish, was that it concerned the art world–especially high-priced forgeries–those who create them and those who track them down and expose them. Instead the story is a rambling, disjointed mess of thoughts, text, and occasionally happenings.

My Thoughts

I think the world “surreal” was thrown in there somewhere in what I read about this book and I should have headed it. Like theatre of the absurd that one word says it all–surreal. Or, to my mind, ridiculous. Much of the book was a boring recital of the descriptions of pieces of art in a gallery or sale catalog. Interspersed between these entries were seemingly random about the art work such as: “The swollen mouths anticipate the rash of Botox use in the city 50 years later.”  Ok…. Then there was the need to intrude–no force into our brains the image that one piece of art was rumored to be used by its owner as a mastra—–y aid. ICK to the nth degree. This line told all I needed to know about this book–it was published because of who the author is and not because it is at all creative. It is just a mess. I finished it so you don’t have to.

My Verdict

2 stars

Portrait of an Unknown Lady: A Novel by Maria Gainza, translated by Thomas Bunstead

Spanish and Portuguese Lit Month 2021


Thank you to Winston’s Dad’s Blog for hosting this event.

My Interest

I’ve enjoyed reading literature in translation all of my adult life, starting with Russian literature and philosophers in my long-ago B.A. Today I enjoy these themed reading moths or challenges just to shake up my reading choices a little and to expand my mind. I had a good bit of study on Latin America long ago in college, too, but Spain and Portugal are not well known to me. Brazilian Portuguese literature interests me because my mother spent part of her childhood in Brazil.

This year, print reading is not going very well. I have hit dud after dud (at least to me–none are necessarily bad books, they just weren’t right for me at that moment). Audio books, now that I’m back commuting, are how much of my “reading” is enjoyably accomplished. Sadly, this is not a challenge that lends itself to audio books. Supply/demand interferes. Last year I found a good “beach read” from Spain in translation and I was hoping for something similar this year, but no luck–at least not in the time I had to give to the research.

Instead I’ve identified one Latin American author’s book of essays in translation (reading more essays is a goal for this year) a Spanish travel book (by the author of the introduction to the book of essays–a coincidence),  and a Brazilian Portuguese diary in translation that both sound interesting and short enough to be possible. There were a few in audio but all were 14 or so hours. I did not want that long of a “listen” right now. All of the fiction seemed too depressing or terrifying. That may change as the month goes on.

My Possibilities

As of right now, here are the three I’ve decided to try. I may end up DNF or loving them or finding something else entirely!

Roads to Santiago by Cees Nooteboom

Roads to Santiago is an evocative travelogue through the sights, sounds, and smells of a little known Spain-its architecture, art, history, landscapes, villages, and people. And as much as it is the story of his travels, it is an elegant and detailed chronicle of Cees Nooteboom’s thirty-five-year love affair with his adopted second country.”

The Diary of  Helena Morely

Originally published in 1942 under the title Minha Vida de Menina—Portuguese meaning “My Life as a Little Girl or “Young Girl”—this book is a diary that was kept by the author, Helena Morley (pseudonym of Alice Dayrell Caldeira Brant), when she was between the ages of twelve and fifteen (1893-1895), and living in Diamantina, a small diamond mining town in southeastern Brazil.

Sidewalks by Valeria Luiselli

““A beautiful, meandering collection of essays full of filaments of brilliance on everything from literature, philosophy, traveling in graveyards, to untranslatable words. The book is full of deep insights yet remains unpretentious throughout.”—Publishers Weekly

Last Year’s Spanish Lit Month Posts

Spanish Lit Month 2020

Spanish Lit Month Review: This Too Shall Pass by Milena Busquets

Are you participating in Spanish & Portuguese Lit Month this year? Have you in the past? Leave me a comment or a link(s) to your own post(s).

Spanish Lit Month Review: This Too Shall Pass by Milena Busquets


My Interest

I’ve enjoyed several reading challenges this year.I’m not very familiar with Spanish literature so when I saw the challenge I knew I’d do it. But, I also knew I was not up to diving into a classic right now. This Too Shall Pass sounded light enough and relatable enough for my present situation. It was a good pick.

The Story

Being forty was never on Bianca’s radar, but it finally hit. Then her beloved mom dies. Her life is in a bit of tailspin. With her two ex-husbands, her married lover, her kids, and a few friends to support her, Bianca heads off to her mother’s home to get away fro a while.

The story is told as a stream of consciousness. It is just the right amount of everything: relationships, conflicts, sex, exotic locale, you name it. I often point out “ick moments” in books–my term for explicit sex. There’s a lot of talk of sex in this one, but not a lot of action. Nonetheless, it belongs in this story. It was not forced in by some apparent p.c. mandate. It’s just who Bianca is–at least at this stage in her life.

“He may be a little younger than me, I realize for the first time with a blend of irrelevance and apprehension. I never consciously used my youth as a weapon of seduction, but neither did it occur to me before to before now that it would come to an end.”

Bianca’s self-absorption, her grand assumption that everyone is as free and lose about relationships is at the heart of it all. She collects, or “curates” in today’s term, a loose-knit family of friends, their boyfriends or lovers, her ex-husbands, her children, her current lover and assumes everyone feels life the same way she does. But her chosen circle is leaving her and she is only just starting to realize it. After a party night, one friend clues her in. One of her ex-husbands takes up with one of her friends but sweetly asks her permission. And, for the first time, she is possibly feeling too old for one of the men to whom she is attracted.

“I think there are certain things that we lose forever. In fact, I think we are more the sum of the things we’ve lost than of the things we’ve kept.”

That party night introduces a stoners’ philosophy discussion. Is love the only thing that makes people or things belong to us? Or do our observations of them also do that? And doesn’t that mean they are never lost to us? Bianca though stoned is certain that some things ARE lost to us. This is part of her trouble with losing her mother and facing the loss of her own youth. Both are just GONE.

“The opposite of death is life, is sex.”

Bianca isn’t just a party girl. She is lonely. She is now lost and lonely. She uses her sex life to try to drown out the loneliness, just as she used it to escape the coming blow of her mother’s death.  But now, with her mother gone, she must also face growing up. The principal grown up of her life is gone–no, has left her. While still reeling, she slams into an older, old friend who has never grown up–still parties with much younger people, and she can sense old age, but it is really just the onset of maturity.


My Thoughts

I was left feeling Bianca, sans audience would be fine when she returns to her beloved loft in Barcelona and her normal life with just her boys and maybe her mom’s old dog. The stage would be gone for her to play out more drama about herself.

This was a much better book than I thought it would be. I admit, I chose it for the challenge because it was short and sounded light enough for my current quarantine-induced attention span. I was pleasantly surprised. This is also a good choice for Women in Translation Month, going on now.

My Verdict


More great Spanish or Spanish-language literature in translation at Winstonsdad’s Blog.





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