cover image Severina


Rodrigo Rey Rosa, trans. from the Spanish by Chris Andrews. Yale Univ., $13 trade paper (112p) ISBN 978-0-300-19609-2

"Books have always been my life," says one character in Rey Rosa's delightful novella, about an unnamed bookseller with literary aspirations, who falls in love with the title character, an irresistible book thief. Obsessed with this "severe" young woman, the narrator experiences an erotic frisson when they connect%E2%80%94as when he frisks her in his shop or when inertia presses them together in an ambulance. When Severina disappears and later returns, the hero becomes more intrigued and infatuated with her and her older male companion. Rey Rosa's book is both precious and precise. Its intense dreams, aphorisms, and literary lists are best read in one sitting. The author keeps readers on tenterhooks as issues of identity and desire ebb and flow along with a suspenseful episode involving the burying of a body. The fable here is a tale of love and forgiveness, which also includes the thievery of a book from Jorge Luis Borges's library. And while it would be impertinent to steal a copy, it is hard not to be tempted to grab a copy of this slim, terrific book. (Feb.)