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.
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. . .
It’s a rare and wonderful book that begins and ends with violence and humor. At the start of Etgar Keret’s The Seven Good Years, Keret is in a hospital waiting for the birth of his first child while nurses, in. . .
Last year, Han Kang’s The Vegetarian was an unexpected critical hit. Now, it’s just been published in the U.S. and has already received a great deal of positive critical attention. The Vegetarian was a bold book to attempt as an. . .
It’s been almost a year since the publication of Nowhere to Be Found by Bae Suah, but despite being included on the 2015 PEN Translation award longlist, and some pretty vocal support from key indie presses, the book has. . .
Jorge Eduardo Benavides’ novel La paz de los vencidos (The Peace of the Defeated) takes the form of a diary written by a nameless Peruvian thirty-something intellectual slumming it in Santa Cruz de Tenerife in Spain’s Canary Islands. Recently relocated. . .
Anyone with any interest at all in contemporary Moroccan writing must start with Souffles. A cultural and political journal, Souffles (the French word for “breaths”) was founded in 1966 by Abdellatif Laâbi and Mostafa Nissabouri. Run by a group of. . .
Randall Jarrell once argued a point that I will now paraphrase and, in doing so, over-simplify: As a culture, we need book criticism, not book reviews. I sort of agree, but let’s not get into all of that. Having finished. . .