Excerpt Of The Century Behind Me: A Family Saga by Eloy Urroz at Ezra Fitz dot com

Ezra Fitz, the translator of Alberto Fuguet, has an excerpt of The Century Behind Me: A Family Saga by Eloy Urroz which he has translated and is looking to publish. As with his excerpt from Missing, it is a generous excerpt and worth a look.

The protagonist is a woman by the name of Silvana Forns Nakash, and the novel traces the history of her family, told in her own voice. She is a Mexican American, born in the US to a Catholic father and a Jewish mother, torn between countries, cultures, and languages.  In coming to terms with her own identity, she paints a Diego Riveraesque mural of the century preceding her birth, one whose scenes include a Syria decimated by cholera, revolutionary Mexico under Cardenas, an Edenic kibbutz in Israel, and a the free-wheeling 60s and 70s right here in America.

In case that sounds at all intriguing, I’m posting an excerpt here from my own sample translation.  Please read, and enjoy.

In October of 1918, General Allenby’s cavalry had retaken Damascus and captured some 75,000 Turks and Germans.  The outbreak of malaria—brought by mosquitoes from the Euphrates—came on the wings of the cholera epidemics that had twice (in 1823 and 1832) already decimated the population.  The so-called “Spanish Flu” also swept through Europe and the Middle East in those days, leaving as many dead as the entire Great War itself had.

Once Damascus fell, the final Ottoman redoubt was Aleppo and its surrounding areas, a city that once—and for three centuries—had remained under Ottoman control, until 1833 when it fell to the Egyptian forces led by Muhammad Ali.  The German general von Oppen, who had managed to keep his troops together, died of cholera, leaving a power vacuum that Allenby took advantage of with his attack on the last bastion of central European forces.  Nevertheless it would be none other than Commander Macandrew who would finally retake Aleppo for the Arabs and, of course, for the French (into whose hands it would pass in 1920).  That final campaign took place in Haritan, to the northeast of Aleppo, finally resulting in the armistice of October 31, 1918.  The war had ended, but not the consequences of pain and death that cholera, malaria, and violence had left in their wake.

First Chapter of Alberto Fuguet’s Missing in English at Ezra Fitz’s Site

Ezra Fitz, the translator of Alberto Fuguet’s Missing an Investigation, has posted the first chapter of the book on his blog. It is a sizable excerpt and I recommend that you read it. I have almost finished the book in Spanish and I have been impressed with the book. It is a book that should have a resonance with American readers and I hope a publisher will bring it out soon. Until then, you have the  generous excerpt from the translator to tide you over.

(If you would like to read some of the reviews in the foreign press that I have covered, take a look here.)

From Fitz’s intro:

The book describes the author’s search for his uncle Carlos, who left his native Chile and disappeared into the vast and expansive United States.  It’s been called an impressive reportorial look at what happens when someone becomes trapped between two cultures as well as what is lost and gained through immigration.  This hybrid story is accompanied by a hybrid text comprised of emails, interviews, fiction, memoir, and something that can only be described as a Bukowski-esque epic poem.  The best thing about this book is that it is no run of the mill sob strory or impetus for some kind of political reform.  What it is is a family story about an uncle and nephew, a prodigal sons and the margins of American society through Chilean eyes.

Here is the opening:

In 1986, my uncle Carlos Patricio Fuguet García vanished off the face of the earth.  He disappeared in Baltimore, Maryland, far from his native Santiago.  The phone calls just stopped, and letters started being returned.  A short while later, my father, his older brother, contacted his employer, a four-star hotel, and they knew nothing as to his whereabouts.  Uncle Javier, his younger brother and my godfather, managed to get in touch with the superintendent of his apartment building, who told them he was no longer living there.

That was the last we ever heard of him.

From that point on, he was gone.


Nobody knew where he was.