La Soledad de las Vocales

Jose Maria Perez Alvarez, Author
Jose Maria Perez Alvarez, Author Ediciones B $22.95 (153p) ISBN 978-84-02-42047-3
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Spanish author P\xE9rez \xC1lvarez won the third Bruguera de Novela Award with this, his seventh novel, a somber meditation on alcoholism, suicide, physical decay, and estrangement. An unnamed older drunkard examines his own failed life in the wretched pension-the Lausana-where he lives. During his monolog, he obsessively brings up a series of seemingly random themes: the bodies of Olympic swimmers, women who stood him up, the streets of Paris, a vision of the spreading of his own ashes in a Norwegian fjord. His fellow guests at the Lausana-a struggling writer, the ghost of a woman who committed suicide years before, a survivor of the Balkan wars-also show up repeatedly. Offering no solace or hope, this rant effectively conveys a sense of anxiety and despair through long, intricate sentences that flow with rhythm. ""Literature is about nothing, it's a void...like my memories are nothing,"" he writes, enunciating a sort of artist statement reinforced with references to Joyce and Kafka and a taste for nihilism. But, however intentional these tautological ramblings are, it can be argued that there is too little reward for the reader. P\xE9rez \xC1lvarez's experimental bouts are rather conventional (no capital letters, liberal use of punctuation marks) and the avalanche of American pop references range from hopelessly dated (Simon & Garfunkel, Humphrey Bogart) to just plain bizarre, particularly the imaginary dialog with Jack Nicholson toward the end. Recommended only for libraries and bookstores with specific collections on current Spanish fiction. Carlos Rodr\xEDguez Martorell, East Elmhurst, NY
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