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Trafalgar by Angelica Gorodischer
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Trafalgar (edition 2013)

by Angelica Gorodischer, Amalia Gladhart (Translator)

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1213170,698 (4.06)15
Nobody knows if Trafalgar Medrano actually travels to the stars, but whenever he is in town he stretches his stories out over at least seven coffees and everyone knows he is the best storyteller in town.
Member:Halabi
Title:Trafalgar
Authors:Angelica Gorodischer
Other authors:Amalia Gladhart (Translator)
Info:Small Beer Press (2013), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 256 pages
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Trafalgar by Angélica Gorodischer

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Picked this up shortly after reading Gorodischer's Kalpa Imperial, yes, because it was translated by Ursula K. LeGuin.
This book had a different translator, but the 'voice' is very much the same (confirming, I guess, that both translators did a good job!)

I didn't like this one as much; but it was still enjoyable, and it did have quite a few similarities, both in format and theme. Both books are very concerned with the narrative voice, with storytelling as a human phenomenon. Both are (sort-of) collections of short stories which are intended to form a cohesive whole (this one even exhorts the reader to please read them in the given order.)

The narrator of this book has a friend, named Trafalgar, who likes to tell stories. His stories may or may not be tall tales; they all relate his adventures as an interstellar merchant, which are very reminiscent of Golden-Age science fiction adventures. It remains intentionally unclear if space travel is a given in the narrator's world.

At times, this reminded me a bit of George Alec Effinger and Spider Robinson. But only a little bit. Your mileage may vary. ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
There seems to be a bit of a dispute if Trafalgar is a novel or a stories collection. It can be either of them or it can be a mix between them. It does have an internal coherence though which makes it closer to a novel or a collection of linked stories. Small Beer Press called it a novel so this is how I am calling it as well.

Trafalgar Medrano is born in Rosario in 1936, an only child of the city's clinician and his wife. Nothing unusual about him - except that he decides to become a businessman (and merchant) and he has a gift of telling stories about the places he had been in. And those places are not on Earth - literary - Trafalgar travels between different worlds, with his trusty old clunker (his spaceship) and then when he is back, he likes telling people about those places and what he had seen and done. And he has one big vice - coffee - he drinks it by the gallon, almost like a comic relief in some parts of the novel.

This is the framework that Gorodischer uses to build her worlds - each chapter is a story from Trafalgar describing a new world - some of them imagined, some of them from the past of the Earth of 1492 (with Columbus, Isabella and Ferdinand, the Inquisition and the discovery of America), some of them based on local cultures (the castes of India for example). Each of these world fully formed, fully executed and totally believable. There is death and betrayal, there is love and sweetness, there is longing for home and thirst for adventure. And at the end of the book, the novel makes a circle, connecting the start with the end (and thus making it more a novel than just stories) - to show that no matter how interesting his adventures are, Trafalgar is still a normal guy.

There is a little problem of course - noone else had ever been on a trip to another planet and through the text, there is the question if these are imaginary stories or if it all happened. But the more you read, the more you realize that it does not matter - they could have happened or might not have happened - it is up to the reader to decide how to read and understand it. I choose to believe that Trafalgar had really traveled to other worlds - because this is what science fiction is all about after all. It is interesting that Gorodischer decides to introduce an aunt, a matron from the older generation to be the voice of reason (she cannot even imagine that these are space stories and tries to position them somewhere in Africa or close to India) while everyone else is open to the idea of space. How one wants to interpret this is up to the reader.

But those stories are not only about women and grand adventures - they are a way for Gorodischer to talk about the meaning of things, the time and the norms. Set the story on a foreign world and it does not sound as if you are talking about what is happening on Earth. There is two ways to read the book - at a face value, as the adventures of Trafalgar in space or as something a bit more, with looking for metaphors through it.

It a way it is also a meta novel - Gorodischer is a character in her own novel, the Argentina of the time and the manners of the ladies of the land are part of the novel, she even mentions one of her novels (the only other one that is translated into English really).

At the end I suspect that everyone will read and understand this book differently - depending on what they expected, what they felt while reading and what they are used to reading. And that is what makes it good literature - it has so many facets and so many possibilities - but without making it confusing or incomplete. It is highly readable, skillfully planned and executed book that ultimately shows what the science fiction can be (and what it had been for a while considering when the book was written). And the translator (which usually would be mentioned only if things had gone wrong) had done marvelous job here.

I am not surprised that Gorodischer is so popular amongst the readers of Spanish. I wish that someone will translate more of her work into English though... ( )
5 vote AnnieMod | Feb 6, 2015 |
Showing 2 of 2
"Trafalgar," despite its British-imperial resonances, is not the name of an empire or any place, but a womanizing raconteur with a serious caffeine addiction and an endless supply of interstellar tall tales—all starring himself, naturally. Gorodischer's work tends to draw comparisons with high "literary" fabulists like Borges and Italo Calvino, but these pulpy space fantasy stories, recounted in one clubbish setting after another, can read more like Spider Robinson (although with far fewer puns, at least in the translation, than the typical Callahan yarn). All in all, I found the richly imaginative narratives of adventure in Trafalgar perfectly enjoyable to read, but the unrelenting spirit of whimsy, even archness, running through the collection may also make them too insubstantial, too easily forgettable.
added by karenb | editStrange Horizons, T.S. Miller (Apr 17, 2013)
 

» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Angélica Gorodischerprimary authorall editionscalculated
Gladhart, AmaliaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Nobody knows if Trafalgar Medrano actually travels to the stars, but whenever he is in town he stretches his stories out over at least seven coffees and everyone knows he is the best storyteller in town.

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