13 December 07 | Chad W. Post | Comments

The most recent issue of The Quarterly Conversation has an excellent article by Javier Moreno on Rodrigo Fresan’s Mantra

Mantra is a novel about a Mexico City that doesn’t exist and about a man called Martín Mantra. Martín Mantra, the cursed boy genius, the son of a soap opera star and a pathetic melodic singer, the only heir of the Mantra Media Empire, the young director of the Mexican “total film” Mondo Mantra, the hypothetical mascot of a group of masked luchadores, the late revolutionary-terrorist leader also known as Capitán Godzilla (a.k.a.) Mantrax. Martín Mantra, the stereotypical citizen of that fictional Mexico D.F. [. . .]

Divided into three clearly delimited parts, Mantra is told, or compiled, by an anonymous narrator/lexicographer who, it turns out, is pretty much dead. We don’t know the circumstances of his death, but we suspect he is not among us anymore. This man is a non-Mexican who, during his early childhood, was introduced by Martín Mantra himself to the Mexican Mantraverse during the projection of a movie the Mexican kid had made. Although Martín Mantra only stayed a few months in the place where he lived, the memory of this exotic child haunted him forever. He could not forget that movie. Then he grew up to be the creator of Guadalajara Smith, a comic book heroine, went to Paris, and, accidentally, met María-Marie, the French cousin of Martín Mantra. María-Marie left him for Mexico, and he went after her. And then he died, so he could start defining things.

Sounds ambitious and fun. Fresan’s Kensington Gardens came out from FSG a couple years back, but doesn’t appear to have made it into paperback . . . KG is partially about Peter Pan, making it potentially more “marketable” than some of his other books, but hopefully more of Fresan’s books will make their way into English. Both Mantra and La Velocidad de las cosas sound fantastic.

And on a coincidental note, the title of Fresan’s first book is Esperanto.

Death by Water
Death by Water by Kenzaburo Oe
Reviewed by Will Eells

Death by Water, Kenzaburo Oe’s latest novel to be translated into English, practically begs you to read it as autobiography. Like The Changeling, as well as many other works not yet released in English, Death by Water is narrated in. . .

Read More >

Twenty-One Cardinals
Twenty-One Cardinals by Jocelyne Saucier
Reviewed by Natalya Tausanovitch

Jocelyne Saucier’s Twenty-One Cardinals is about the type of unique, indestructible, and often tragic loyalty only found in families. For a brief but stunningly mesmerizing 169 pages, Twenty-One Cardinals invited me in to the haunting and intimate world of the. . .

Read More >

One of Us Is Sleeping
One of Us Is Sleeping by Josefine Klougart
Reviewed by Jeremy Garber

We know so very little; so little that what we think to be knowledge is hardly worth reckoning with at all; instead we ought to settle for being pleasantly surprised if, on the edge of things, against all expectations, our. . .

Read More >

Bye Bye Blondie
Bye Bye Blondie by Virginie Despentes
Reviewed by Emma Ramadan

Many of Virginie Despentes’s books revolve around the same central idea: “To be born a woman [is] the worst fate in practically every society.” But this message is nearly always packaged in easy-to-read books that fill you with the pleasure. . .

Read More >

La Superba
La Superba by Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer
Reviewed by Anna Alden

Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer’s La Superba is appropriately titled after the Italian city of Genoa, where, after escaping the pressures of fame in his own country, the semi-autobiographical narrator finds himself cataloguing the experiences of its mesmerizing inhabitants with the intention. . .

Read More >

Intervenir/Intervene by Dolores Dorantes; Rodrigo Flores Sánchez
Reviewed by Vincent Francone

It took reading 44 pages of Intervenir/Intervene before I began to get a sense of what Dolores Dorantes and Rodrigo Flores Sánchez were up to. Recurring throughout these 44 pages—throughout the entire book—are shovels, shovel smacks to the face, lobelias—aha!. . .

Read More >

All Days Are Night
All Days Are Night by Peter Stamm
Reviewed by Lori Feathers

As presaged by its title, contradiction is the theme of Peter Stamm’s novel, All Days Are Night. Gillian, a well-known television personality, remains unknowable to herself. And Hubert, a frustrated artist and Gillian’s lover, creates art through the process of. . .

Read More >