Review of Chilean Author Alberto Fuguet’s New Novel

Moleskine Literario has an lengthy and well reasoned review of Alberto Fuguet’s newest book, which is not quite a novel and not quite non-fiction. It is a book based on his own family and his own experience. The narrator, who is also named Alberto Fuguet, is trying to find out more about his uncle, Carlos, who led a Bohemian life in the US during the 60s. Estranged from his father, a man who says

“Stop bothering me,” he said by telephone one night, “cease to exist. You don’t exist for me. You have only brought me problems. We don’t want to see you ever again. I don’t care that you are my son.”

“Deja de molestarnos”, le dijo por teléfono una noche, “deja de existir. No existes para mí. Sólo me has traído problemas. No queremos verte nunca más. No me interesa que seas hijo mío” (25).

While this could become, perhaps, just a tale of family strife, Luis Hernán Castañeda, notes that he uses the search not only to imagine what could have been, but to avoid the malicious that often comes with family investigations.

Missing (an investigation), is, most of all, a touching text: the material is intense, per se, and the treatment of this material does justice to its intensity. Nerveless, it is also a lucid and ambitious textual artifact, in which the gaze of the narrator Fuguet is  sharpened to penetrate the cloudy and confusing and hurtful, with the artistic intention, completely achieved, of returning to the transformed light -perhaps exalted-of a skillful and complex text of elaboration.

“Missing (una investigación)” es, sobre todo, un texto conmovedor: su materia es intensa per se, y el tratamiento de esa materia le hace entera justicia a su intensidad. Sin embargo, también es un artefacto textual lúcido y ambicioso, en el que la mirada del narrador Fuguet se afila para penetrar en lo turbio y lo confuso y lo hiriente, con el propósito artístico plenamente logrado de devolverlo a la luz transformado -quizá enaltecido- en un texto de elaboración diestra y compleja.

What sounds particularly interesting is his use of multiple modes of story telling. If you’ve read Short Cuts you will know that he does like to play with form some what, although this seems like the farthest hes gone.

The formal complexity of the the novel does not respond to a gratuitous pyrotechnic effort but the requirements of dark and tangled material. In the ample formal repertory we find, for example, one whole section dedicated to commenting on the origin of the book that the reader has in his hands, a very short chronicle that appeared in the magazine Etiqueta negra; there is also a section constructed from the Diary of the Psychiatrist, composed of annotations in which Fuguet, transformed into a detective, explains the progress of his investigation; another part of the book gives two interviews conducted by Fuguet with his uncle, en which the uncle expresses himself in the first person, even though it is clear after hearing him that there are enigmatic areas, secret territories that he refuses to reveal. Lastly, the center of the novel, both in terms of expansiveness and importance, emerge in the eighth part, titled The Echoes of his Mind. Carlos Talks [title is in English]. It is about a long narrative and autobiographic poem, one where an imaginary Carlos, fruit of an amalgamation of observation and fantasy, narrates his intire life and seeks to impress a feeling of him for himself and for others.

La complejidad formal de la novela no responde, pues, a un gratuito afán de pirotecnia sino a los requisitos de una materia oscura y enmarañada. En el amplio repertorio formal encontramos, por ejemplo, toda una sección dedicada a comentar el origen del libro que el lector tiene entre manos, una crónica muy breve que apareció publicada en la revista “Etiqueta negra”; existe también una parte construida a partir de un “diario de la pesquisa”, compuesto por anotaciones en las que Fuguet, transformado en detective, va dando cuenta de los progresos de su investigación; otra zona del libro ofrece dos entrevistas realizadas por Fuguet a su tío, en las que éste se expresa en primera persona, aunque queda claro tras escucharlo que hay una zona enigmática, un territorio secreto que se niega a revelarse. Por último el centro de la novela, tanto en términos de extensión como de importancia, eclosiona en la octava parte, titulada “The Echoes of his Mind. Carlos talks”. Se trata de un largo poema narrativo y autobiográfico en el cual un Carlos imaginario, fruto de una amalgama de observación y fantasía, narra su vida entera y procura imprimirle un sentido, para sí mismo y para los otros.

I hope someday it will come out in English, especially since he has had one book published in English already.

Update (6/2/10): I have been informed by @ezrafitz that they are working on a translation right now. No ETA as yet.

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