Felix de Azua - Mordantly funny, at times horrifying, always invigorating. Through eight months of dense diary entries, it recounts the distractions of an apparently mediocre man in post-Franco Barcelona who embraces banality and drifts on the tide of the city. But the diarist's piercing irony keeps his descent a sharply told, energetically written tour that sometimes resembles a Baedeker of the underworld as edited by James Joyce
Felix de Azua, Diary Of A Humiliated Man, Trans. by Julie Jones, Brookline Books, 1996.
This work presents eight months in the life of a hopelessly banal individual, told in the form of increasingly disjointed notebook entries -entries that detail episodes of drunkenness, minor crime, minor sex, acerbic ruminations on liturature and the protagonist's inability to create anything more than his own dissolution.
Diary of a Humiliated Man ultimately rises above the moral squalor in which it is mired. It is, in the narrator's own words, "a modest book full of hope."
Selected by Publishers Weekly as one of the Best Books of 1996.
Mordantly funny, at times horrifying, always invigorating, the first novel of this Spanish writer to appear in English benefits from a supple translation by Jones. Through eight months of dense diary entries, it recounts the distractions of an apparently mediocre man in post-Franco Barcelona who embraces banality and drifts on the tide of the city. But the diarist's piercing irony keeps his descent a sharply told, energetically written tour that sometimes resembles a Baedeker of the underworld as edited by James Joyce. Orphaned and living on a small inheritance, the narrator finds himself drifting to the sleazy night life of the Ramblas, where he encounters former mentors and eventually adopts a new one: an enigmatic usurer known as the Chinaman. Their relationship moves from adversarial to oddly co-dependent, as the diarist experiments with crime, slides into squalor and madness, is rescued by a jailhouse vision of materialism and an apotheosis of sex, has a final reckoning with his alter ego and ends up reconciled with his voice?the diary itself. This modern picaresque is a bracing change from the sometimes banal freeways of current American fiction. - Publishers Weekly
In de Azua's first novel available in English, a man "with pretensions to banality" spends his time reading, wandering the streets of Barcelona, drinking, thinking, having aimless sexual and underworld encounters, and recording his observations in a diary. Thankfully, because many readers would probably be happy to trade lives with him, the narrator does not descend into self-pity. Recalling Camus's The Fall (1956) and many works by Nabokov that have an erudite first-person narrator, the book resembles many other novels about superfluous antiheroes. Its narrator, however, is unpretentious, witty without being stagy, and tenderly satiric. Another plus are the well-translated, insightful descriptions of Barcelona and its society. This book was winner of Spain's Premio Herralde Prize in 1987. Recommended for informed readers. - Eric Howard, Library Journal