Alberto Chimal - a prodigy of the imagination, a fascinating reading experience which, if there is any justice, will become one of the first classics of Latin-American literature of this century

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Alberto Chimal, La torre y el jardín [The Tower and the Garden]


There have been a few novels that I have read during my life where, not only do I enjoy the novel and/or think that it is a great novel but where I realise that it is a totally original novel. Examples would include Ulyssses, Gravity’s Rainbow and Cien Años de Soledad (One Hundred Years Of Solitude), though there are others. There have not been too many recently, though one example would be César Aira‘s La guerra de los gimnasios [The War of the Gymnasia] (not yet translated into English. Now here is another Spanish-language novel, not yet translated into English, that falls into this category. This does not necessarily mean that is great or even that I particularly enjoyed it but there is no doubt that it is original. Manuel Barroso said it was the best work published by a Mexican author in 2012 and probably in the century. The Bolivian writer, Edmundo Paz Soldán, said that it es un prodigio de la imaginación, una fascinante experiencia de lectura que, si hay justicia, debería convertirse en uno de los primeros clásicos de la literatura latinoamericana de este siglo [is a prodigy of the imagination, a fascinating reading experience which, if there is any justice, will become one of the first classics of Latin-American literature of this century]. The author David Miklos said that it has no equal in our literature. Latin American critics have been full of praise for this work. As far as I am aware there are no plans to publish this work in English, though I hope I am wrong.
As I said, this is a thoroughly original work but it is not always an easy read. It is set in the (fictitious) town of Morosa, presumably based, at least in part, on Mexico City (Morosa can be the feminine of moroso meaning slow or sluggish but, as a noun, it means someone who does not pay their debts, a defaulter.) Most of the action takes place in the Brincadero, a building that is, from the outside, seven storeys high but, on the inside, is much bigger. Like the house in The House of Leaves or Dr Who’s Tardis (Chimal is a science fiction fan), the Brincadero is much larger inside. Indeed, the lemmings alone take up twelve floors. It also changes its appearance – rooms come and go, for example – and has the ability to repair itself when damaged. The Brincadero has one main function. It is a brothel but not a brothel in the conventional sense but a brothel where the rich from all over the world come and have sex with animals. By animals, this means from fleas and ants (certain ants can be used to titillate certain parts of the anatomy, for example) to tigers, via the lemmings mentioned above and a range of exotic and unusual animals. Fortunately, Chimal gives us little description of what the rich actually do with the animals, apart from the obvious, though we learn that the animals are dressed up and that both animals and human customers can and do get hurt and killed. Fortunately, there is a hospital on site. There is also an on-site taxidermist, so that clients can have their animals stuffed after they have disposed of them.... read more here at www.themodernnovel.org

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