Leaving The Atocha Station

Surprisingly good book about a poet’s fellowship in Madrid, fraudulently attempting to make sense of the Spanish Civil War via literature and also the Iraq War unfolding around him. He gradually masters the language, but it’s the spells where he details what is going on around him that draws you in. His morning ritual at the Prado, lingering for over 30 minutes with his coffee in front of Van der Weyden’s Descent From The Cross, then heading back to his foundation-subsidized apartment to eat, jack off, read Tolstoy. Why modern authors feel the need to interject their ejaculations into our thoughts, I briefly grimace at but move on. He pops through his sunroof, smokes hash, walks through the Retiro, interfaces with folks from his language school (meets Isabel). One night he tires of hearing the commotion outside and mingles with the crowd, standing just outside a circle of friends and getting welcomed into the crowd by a latecomer. Thus he meets Arturo and his sister Teresa, who then go on to translate his poems into Spanish. Ridiculous stories of his mom being dead (untrue) to gain sympathy. A trip to Granada without seeing the Alhambra. A trip to Barcelona and getting lost on his way back to the hotel. The attack on the train on March 11, hundreds dead, marching, protests. IM’ing with his pal in Mexico and then stealing his pal’s story of enticing a girl into the river where she’s swept away and dies, failed CPR minutes later.
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Rec’d by the Penguin Books peeps based on my likes/interests, but this is the first out of three they’ve recommended so far that I’ve actually enjoyed. 33% success rate!