14 April 17 | Kaija Straumanis

The latest addition to our Reviews section is a double-header by Tim Lebeau on Revulsion by Horacio Castellanos Moya, published by New Directions, and Cabo De Gata by Eugene Ruge, published by Graywolf.

About Tim: After studying anthropology a and literature and completing a graduate program in religious studies, Tim has spent the past four years working with children with severe emotional disorders. He currently lives in New Orleans and continues to read and write in his free time.

Tim wrote the reviews for both books as a unified piece because of the common themes he found they both had. It’s not often that we get to publish reviews like this, but when two books find themselves in similar camps with similar resonances—resonances that the reader picks up on and draws lines between—it results in a unique look into how readers read and relate what they’ve read. Anyway, here’s the beginning of Tim’s review:

The dislocation of individuals from the countries of their birth has long been a common theme in contemporary literature. These two short novels recently translated into English appear firmly rooted in this tradition of ex-pat literature, but their authors eschew the romanticism found in earlier works. In Revulsion, Eguardo Vega has returned home after living 18 years in Montreal, to attend the funeral of his mother and collect his inheritance. The unnamed narrator of Cabo De Gata leaves his home in Berlin for the warmth of the coast. Both narrators struggle with their new surroundings. Neither experiences personal epiphanies, neither finds love and salvation in exotic climates. Instead, both find that they cannot escape themselves, just as the Egyptian poet C. P. Cavafy early last century, “There’s no new land, my friend, no / New sea; for the city will follow you.”

The main narrative of Revulsion is set in a bar, opening as Vega, a professor of art history in Montreal, welcomes his friend, a fictionalized version of the writer Moya, to the only place he likes in all of San Salvador. Over the course of a single paragraph that spans 83 pages, Vega proceeds to outline in detail and repetition everything about his homeland that he finds repulsive. Starting with the local beer, Vega becomes increasingly disgusted with the country’s politics, religious education, television programs, sports teams, pupusas, his brother, his brother’s children, his sister-in-law, brothels, music, the military, businessmen. Moya remains a silent witness as each new subject causes Vega the most severe revulsion.

For the rest of the review, go here

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