Jeremy Osner blogs about reading and translation at READIN. He is currently working on a translation of El arte de la resurrecctión (and the translated excerpts in his review are his), a novel that is looking for an English-language publisher. Here’s a bit from his review:
“The small stone plaza was floating in the midday heat. The Christ of Elqui, kneeling on the ground, his gaze thrown back on high, the part in his hair dark under the Atacaman sun—he felt himself falling into an ecstasy. It was no less than this: he had brought it to pass. Had restored to life a dead man.”
We meet Domingo Zárate Vega, “better known to all as the Christ of Elqui,” in the opening lines of Hernán Rivera Letelier’s The Art of Resurrection (Alfaguara, 2010), at the moment of realization of his greatest dream—of having mastered “the sublime art of resurrection.”
The novel follows Zárate Vega in his travels through a key week in the midpoint of his 20-year mission of penance. It is the last week of December, 1942; the randy Christ of Elqui journeys to the mining camp of Providencia in search of the woman he believes will play the role of Mary Magdalene to his messiah. His story of finding her and losing her again is an exuberantly comic, darkly sarcastic, heartfelt, and sentimental meditation on faith and loss, played out against labor unrest among the striking workers of Providencia.
Life in the mining camp is threaded together with currents in Chile’s history in a way that is characteristic of (and perhaps unique to) Rivera Letelier’s narrative voice. He has spent the past 20 years telling the stories of people who worked in the nitrate industry, an industry that formed a vital part of the story of Chile and, by extension, that of the industrialized world. (No nitrate, no industrialized agriculture!) The degree of precision and fluency in his descriptions of scene and character bring that past alive.
For the rest of the review, go here.
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