The Nanny and the Iceberg

Ariel Dorfman, Author Farrar Straus Giroux $25 (320p) ISBN 978-0-374-21898-0
Framed as a suicide note from a lovelorn Chilean-American to his Internet sweetheart, Dorfman's eccentric new novel convolutes with its narrator's obsessive musings and exquisite bad luck. On the eve of his 25th birthday, Gabriel McKenzie recounts the events of two years before when, a sex-fanatic and virgin, he returned with his mother from self-imposed exile in Manhattan to his father and his fatherland. In Santiago, Gabriel (nicknamed Cara de Guagua, or Baby Face) tries to win his father Crist bal's affection and learn the amorous secrets that have given Cris the reputation of a contemporary Don Juan. Because of a bet made on the day after Gabriel was conceived--the day of Cris's own 25th birthday and two days after Ch Guevara's death--Gabriel's dad must sleep with a different woman every night until he turns 50. This obligation preoccupies Cris and his surrogate son, Polo, even as it frustrates and humiliates Gabriel. The other participants in the wager are as single-minded in their efforts to win as Cris is: Pablo Bar n is determined to be the most powerful minister in Chile, and Cris's brother Dancisco does all he can to ensure that the entire continent will be socialist in 25 years. When Bar n receives a note threatening to harm the iceberg he plans to retrieve from Antarctica and display in Sevilla in honor of the 500th anniversary of Columbus's discovery of the New World, he charges Cris and Gabriel with the task of identifying its author. Suspects abound: even Gabriel's beloved Nanny seems to know more than she lets on. What ensues is an only fitfully amusing caricature of Chilean political life post-Pinochet, an examination of the fraught relationship between father and son and a record of the painful ordeal of first, lost love. Dorfman's (Heading South, Looking North) tendency to reiterate information and recast Gabriel's difficulties is comic in an unsustainably hyperactive way, and the giddiness that at first impels the novel with manic energy soon gives way to confusion. (May)
Reviewed on: 05/31/1999
Release date: 06/01/1999
Paperback - 364 pages - 978-1-58322-567-7
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