18 January 08 | Chad W. Post

Scott Esposito of Conversational Reading, reviewed Quim Monzo’s The Enormity of the Tragedy in the Philadelphia Inquirer, hitting upon the fascinating way Monzo takes the setup for a lewd joke (the main character has a permanent erection that’s actually a symptom of a disease leaving him with seven weeks to live) but creates something more interesting:

A priapic protagonist virtually begs for bawdy, Rabelaisian humor, but The Enormity of the Tragedy is actually quite restrained. The book is full of subtly funny lines, and often they have nothing to do with Ramon-Maria’s tumescence. At one point, for instance, Anna-Francesca reflects somewhat foolishly on a 17-year-old she almost went all the way with: “Unlike other older youths she’d met . . . he didn’t spurn her because she was too young.” In other words, he was the only boy slimy enough to try to take advantage of an underage girl. Throughout, Monzó has a lot of fun condemning his protagonists’ innocence and self-involvement by presenting similarly ironic thoughts. At times this borders on excessive, but for the most part Monzó mocks without seeming cruel.

Adding a healthy dose of Thanatos to the book’s Eros, Anna-Francesca fantasizes about killing Ramon-Maria. Eventually she gets around to doing some research, the fruits of which Monzó lays out in an amazing, seven-page-long list. Fascinating and deadening, the list makes murder both titillating and banal.

Monzo is one of Catalan’s most honored contemporary writers. He gave the opening address at the Frankfurt Book Fair last October, and is extremely funny, sharp, and playful. In addition to this novel, there was one book of stories published in the States back in the ’80s called O’ Clock. His stories remind me of a cross between Cortazar and Coover, if that makes any sense.

As you can probably tell, I’m a big fan of his work, and actually, Open Letter is going to be publishing his novel Gasoline (as translated by Peter Bush) next spring. And hopefully many more of his books . . .


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