Twilight at the Equator

Jaime Manrique, Author
Jaime Manrique, Author Faber & Faber $23.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-571-19901-3
Paperback - 212 pages - 978-1-891305-18-4
Open Ebook - 208 pages - 978-0-299-18773-6
Open Ebook - 208 pages - 978-1-282-26922-4
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The male characters in Manrique's latest (after Latin Moon in Manhattan and Colombian Gold) crossdress as easily as they cross borders to assume European and American lives without fully eliminating the vestiges of their Colombian backgrounds. A young writer who has left a city in Colombia to seek his fortune in Madrid, Barcelona and New York, Santiago Martinez often finds himself wistful for his hometown, which he remembers as a lush tropical, peaceful paradise instead of the drug-ridden and politically claustrophobic society it is. Told in episodic chapters (many of which were published as short stories), the novel hits a variety of tones: there's the concupiscence and pathos of young bohemian gay love as young Santiago sells his blood and hustles his body to pay the rent; and there's the powerful melancholy when Santiago, now older and teaching in New York, witnesses a young student's slow demise. This eloquent work, like its characters, has more in common with stoic American literary traditions than its ardent Latin counterparts. It draws upon the American voice of loneliness and a soul at once adrift yet locked into the United States. In the title story, Santiago returns briefly to Colombia and concludes: ""Coming back home had freed me from the tyranny of dreaming of returning to the sullied paradise I had left as a boy, for which now I could cease to yearn."" Much more than the semi-autobiographical story the novel claims to be, this boisterous and tragic work addresses issues of solitude, exile and self-discovery with generous feeling and honest emotion. (Mar.)
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