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.

Rambling Jack
Rambling Jack by Micheál Ó Conghaile
Reviewed by Vincent Francone

“Rambling Jack—what’s that?”
“A novel. Novella, I guess.”
“Yeah, it looks short. What is it, a hundred pages?”
“Sorta. It’s a duel language book, so really, only about… 50 pages total.”
“50 pages?”
“Including illustrations.”
“And this—what. . .

Read More >

The Things We Don't Do
The Things We Don't Do by Andrés Neuman
Reviewed by Tiffany Nichols

Many authors are compared to Roberto Bolaño. However, very few authors have the privilege of having a Roberto Bolaño quote on the cover of their work; and at that, one which states, “Good readers will find something that can be. . .

Read More >

Private Life
Private Life by Josep Maria de Sagarra
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

In Josep Maria de Sagarra’s Private Life, a man harangues his friend about literature while walking through Barcelona at night:

When a novel states a fact that ties into another fact and another and another, as the chain goes on. . .

Read More >

Dinner by César Aira
Reviewed by Lori Feathers

César Aira dishes up an imaginative parable on how identity shapes our sense of belonging with Dinner, his latest release in English. Aira’s narrator (who, appropriately, remains nameless) is a self-pitying, bitter man—in his late fifties, living again with. . .

Read More >

We're Not Here to Disappear
We're Not Here to Disappear by Olivia Rosenthal
Reviewed by Megan C. Ferguson

Originally published in French in 2007, We’re Not Here to Disappear (On n’est pas là pour disparaître) won the Prix Wepler-Fondation La Poste and the Prix Pierre Simon Ethique et Réflexion. The work has been recently translated by Béatrice Mousli. . .

Read More >

The Queen's Caprice
The Queen's Caprice by Jean Echenoz
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

Even though the latest from Jean Echenoz is only a thin volume containing seven of what he calls “little literary objects,” it is packed with surprises. In these pieces, things happen below the surface, sometimes both literally and figuratively. As. . .

Read More >

French Concession
French Concession by Xiao Bai
Reviewed by Emily Goedde

Who is this woman? This is the question that opens Xiao Bai’s French Concession, a novel of colonial-era Shanghai’s spies and revolutionaries, police and smugglers, who scoot between doorways, walk nonchalantly down avenues, smoke cigars in police bureaus, and lounge. . .

Read More >