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En la boca del lobo (GALAXIA NOVA) En la boca del lobo es una novela sobre la guerra y la mafia, la inocencia y la corrupci n, y la historia como acumulaci n de lo irremediable Ambientada principalmente en Sicilia durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial, relata el intento de reconstrucci n de un pa s despu s de una violenta contienda a trav s de la mirada de varios personajes Will Walker, oficial ingl s de Seguridad sobre el Terreno, lleva a cabo una tentativa de dominio del gran juego de la inteligencia y la intervenci n militares Ray Marfione, soldado de infanter a italoamericano, experimenta el devastador trauma psicol gico de la batalla hasta que poco a poco, desde su escondite y con la ayuda de una princesa siciliana, emprende el largo camino de retorno a la vida Cir Albanese es un mafioso que ha disfrutado de un prolongado y fruct fero exilio en Nueva York durante los a os del fascismo italiano Regresa para recuperar su vida anterior, incluida la esposa que desde hace mucho lo da por muerto Junto a algunos amigos liberados de prisi n y con la ayuda inconsciente de los aliados, trabaja por el restablecimiento del control de la mafia en Sicilia Escrita en cap tulos cortos de una intensidad l rica extraordinaria, En la boca del lobo confronta los peque os detalles brillantes de la experiencia individual con unas fuerzas hist ricas de contundente enormidad Es testigo de los esfuerzos de los personajes por encontrar alg n significado en todo ello, por contarse a s mismos historias que tengan sentido Los numerosos relatos se entrelazan y se separan a lo largo de una novela que registra, con toda la brutalidad posible, los acontecimientos de dichas vidas sin juzgar su significado o su valor It was what it was Like a sketch for a big blockbustery kind of thing which ran out of steam before it got started Like a pilot for the tv series that won t happen Foulds can write in a no nonsense kind of way, but this assemblage never movesthan the laptop keys. You could say no one is boring if you truly get to know them But what happens if an author doesn t really get to know his characters This novel taught me just how dependent a novel is on its characters It doesn t matter how well you can write or even how potentially compelling your story is if your characters are pasteboard creations without an imaginatively powered inner life they simply won t animate any circumstance they are led into Early on I thought this was going to be a great read You could say no one is boring if you truly get to know them But what happens if an author doesn t really get to know his characters This novel taught me just how dependent a novel is on its characters It doesn t matter how well you can write or even how potentially compelling your story is if your characters are pasteboard creations without an imaginatively powered inner life they simply won t animate any circumstance they are led into Early on I thought this was going to be a great read It begins with a Mafioso setpiece a Sicilian shepherd is told some of his landlord s sheep will be stolen that night, at the behest of his landlord The writing is gorgeous Foulds is brilliant at sentence writing Misgivings began when the second and especially the third characters were introduced Will is an English soldier, a stickler for propriety, the kind of man who gets incensed if people don t form an orderly queue Ray is an evennondescript American infantryman Soon you begin to suspect Foulds himself wasn t very inspired by this pair and even the prose began to lose its heightened poetical qualities Especially dull was the American Ray I never believed he was American he was like Mr Nobody from Nowhere He has no background, no pulse, no inner demons or angels by which to recognise him He wants to make films but rather in the way children would like to fly When he s stationed in Africa I didn t believe he was in Africa nor did I understand why the novel was in Africa You have to create a self in order to show it being punctured by the horrors of the war and I m afraid Ray never had a self for me When we return to Italy the mafia in the form of a character called Albanese hijacks the novel Ray meets a movie princess but of course doesn t get her Will is now a Field Security Officer but will be helpless to hold back the tide of corruption of the old order Foulds suggests the mafia isdeeply rooted and enduring in Sicily than any political system And that s about it Shame because Foulds has the sensibility of a poet and at his best writes thrilling searing sentences I think maybe he chose the wrong material here I had expected to see a lot of fiction about the First World War in 2014, but it seems like every other new novel I pick up is set in or around the Second World War There s nothing wrong with that, and I ve read enough WW2 fiction to know there are as many stories as there were participants, but still, a novel needs to bring something fresh to the genre to have any impact And on that score, Foulds only half succeeds The parts of the novel devoted to Will, the British Field Security Officer, a I had expected to see a lot of fiction about the First World War in 2014, but it seems like every other new novel I pick up is set in or around the Second World War There s nothing wrong with that, and I ve read enough WW2 fiction to know there are as many stories as there were participants, but still, a novel needs to bring something fresh to the genre to have any impact And on that score, Foulds only half succeeds The parts of the novel devoted to Will, the British Field Security Officer, and his work in Sicily where the Mafia are quietly filling the power vacuum is fascinating and to me at least a fresh perspective The quotes from Wind in the Willows that Foulds works in are well judged and work beautifully, and even when Foulds introduces a scene that you think you ve read many times before the ubiquitous visit to a prostitute he manages to breathe new life into it Unfortunately, the focus of the novel is divided between Will and Ray, an Italian American soldier with dreams of becoming a Hollywood director, and this character is definitely the novel s weak link Ray is almost a clich , a character we ve seen countless times before, and who never truly comes to life Another problem for me were the 100 pages or so set in North Africa where Foulds evokes the Sicilian towns and countryside so well, his North Africa could be anywhere there is no sense of place whatsoever This section also contains a lot of battle writing, but I found it lacking it felt perhaps understandably second hand, with one chapter told in broken lines and scattered words that seemed like a writer s attempt to mimic the hand held camera work of Saving Private Ryan or Band of Brothers rather than trying to imagine himself in that situation For me it was very much a novel of two halves, saved by some excellent writing, especially in the sections devoted to Will and the Sicilian characters, and a perfect final line Reading Adam Foulds s new novel In the Wolf s Mouth, I was reminded of literary movements like Oulipo, which explored the concept of potential literature.Don t get me wrong it s not that the novel is particularly experimental It s the potential aspect that stuck in my head In the world of Oulipo and others, the emphasis wason the creation of new possibilities, rather than the actual execution of those ideas In the Wolf s Mouth is in some ways a potential novel It sets up a scenari Reading Adam Foulds s new novel In the Wolf s Mouth, I was reminded of literary movements like Oulipo, which explored the concept of potential literature.Don t get me wrong it s not that the novel is particularly experimental It s the potential aspect that stuck in my head In the world of Oulipo and others, the emphasis wason the creation of new possibilities, rather than the actual execution of those ideas In the Wolf s Mouth is in some ways a potential novel It sets up a scenario involving multiple characters and storylines, and then leaves those narratives deliberately unconnected, the potential deliberately unfulfilled It s a deliberate choice, and there are very clear reasons for it, making it an interesting book to read and think about.First, a word on those different narratives We start with two rural Sicilians in pre war Sicily, and then switch for the bulk of the book to the stories of two young Allied soldiers in World War II Italian American infrantryman Ray Marfione marches across Italy, watches his friends die, and gets badly lost, both spiritually and geographically, while English intelligence officer Will Walker blunders ineffectually across North Africa and Italy.These characters, Ray and Will, constantly threaten to become protagonists, but never actually do They lurch from place to place, constantly at the mercy of unseen forces.Will tries to take bold action, but is frustrated by incompetent and cowardly superior officers In north Africa, for example, he wants to hold the French colonial government accountable for imprisoning local people in a filthy underground pit called the fish pond But his captain talks evasively of the balance of power, and tells him to write up a report Later, he makes negotiations with local leaders to have the area join the British Empire, but is told that the British are pulling out.As for Ray, he spends most of the war watching people get maimed and blown up He threatens to have a deep friendship with a fellow soldier, but they are separated He hides out in the house of a local Italian prince, and almost has an affair with the prince s daughter.The only people who are real protagonists are those rural Sicilians we met right at the beginning Angilu and Ciro, a shepherd and a Mafioso Their lives are intertwined, even though one of them goes to America and back, and it s these two who meet again at the end of the book, with dramatic consequences.The British and the Americans, on the other hand, are just passing through Ray and Will both meet the prince for whom Angilu now works, and Will threatens to have Ciro arrested, but they have little real impact on the world of the people whose country they ve invaded This is a story that belongs to the local people, not the invaders, just as the land belonged to them before, and will continue to belong to them long after the armies and tanks have departed.By telling us so much of Ray and Will s story, and then depriving us of the central role I came to expect of them, Foulds at first left me a little disappointed at the ending, but then when I thought about it some , I saw what he had done and why he had done it.It s a clever strategy, although not without risk the Daily Mail reviewer concluded that the book lacked narrative drive, and thought that another draft might have made it a whole lot better I can see why he thought that, but I think Foulds probably went through many drafts, and shaped his story very carefully and deliberately to portray war in the way he saw it The end result was a book that gave me a fresh perspective on a very old conflict, which I think is something of an achievement

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