The Garden Next Door

Jose Donoso, Author, Hardie St Martin, Translator
Jose Donoso, Author, Hardie St Martin, Translator Grove Press $18.95 (243p) ISBN 978-0-8021-1238-5
Paperback - 242 pages - 978-0-8021-3368-7
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Julio and Gloria Mendez, two Chilean writers who fled to Spain after the Pinochet coup, find themselves at the nadir of their professional and emotional lives in this taut, complex drama about the dissolution and rebirth of a marriage. Anticipating a carefree holiday, the Mendezes agree to house-sit a friend's plush Madrid apartment for the summer, but from the moment they arrive, things go wrong. Supposedly at work on revisions of a novel (already turned down once by his literary agent) that he hopes will transform him from a minor member of the Latin American literary boom into a star in his own right, Julio instead spies on the seemingly charmed life of a beautiful young woman who lives next door. He and Gloria communicate only through a haze of Valium and alcohol, their conversations and sex tired, stale repetitions of previous encounters. Then come several quick blows: a visit from a young bisexual friend of their estranged son forces them to confront their relationship with their offspring; Julio's novel is rejected again; Gloria goes into a tailspin of depression. Finally, in a desperate move, Julio sells a valuable painting in the apartment and takes Gloria to Morocco, where he plans to desert her. After expertly fleshing out the couple's painful relationship, Donoso (Curfew) turns the novel on its head with a surprise ending. Very different from his surrealistic early novels, this work offers a bitter assessment of the problems 6migrds face-children who no longer identify with their culture, stunted professional lives, broken marriageswhile at the same time offering hope for redemption. (Nov.)
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