Cold Skin

Albert Sanchez Pinol, Author, Cheryl Leah Morgan, Translator , trans. from the Catalan by Cheryl Leah Morgan. Farrar, Straus & Giroux $20 (182p) ISBN 978-0-374-18239-7

In this grim, H.G. Wellsian fable, an unnamed European of unspecified nationality is hired to spend an unspecified mid-20th-century year logging wind conditions on a tiny Antarctic island. Anticipating solitude, the bookish young man soon discovers that he has a neighbor—the pathologically reclusive Gruner—and that each night, the island is overrun by humanoid killer amphibians. He and brutish Gruner—who has tamed a "toad" of his own—join forces, killing monsters by night and fornicating with Gruner's pet by day. Inspired by the creature's ability to laugh and cry—to say nothing of her perky breasts, knack for housework and wordless submissiveness—the narrator begins to think of the cold-blooded creatures as human. When he tries to befriend them and their children, his efforts pacify the humanoids, but not Gruner; the hopeful idyll ends when the older man launches a last suicidal effort to exterminate the "monsters." Gruner's death plunges our hero into a rut of battle, drunkenness and bestiality so complete that when his replacement arrives, he has become as feral as Gruner was before him. Sentence by elegant sentence, Piñol's first novel offers a tightly crafted allegory of human brutality both fascinating and repellent. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 08/15/2005
Release date: 11/01/2005
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