cover image Aphasia


Mauro Javier Cárdenas. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26 (208p) ISBN 978-0-374-25786-6

Cárdenas follows up his wild and intelligent The Revolutionaries Try Again with an exercise in extreme navel-gazing narrated by Antonio Jose Jiménez, a Colombian immigrant to the U.S. who is described by his sister as “a moron who allowed himself to be conned by my mother.” Antonio’s ex-wife has left for the Czech Republic with their two young daughters, spurring Antonio into a long reconsideration of his circumstances. He’s an analyst at an investment company, and lately he’s been using a dating website for would-be sugar daddies as a way to meet women. He also has to deal with his mentally ill sister, who is convinced her family is conspiring against her with Barack Obama. But mostly, Antonio reads to keep his mind off of things: Bruno Schulz, László Krasznahorkai, and Thomas Bernhard, a cavalcade of writers’ writers that leads Antonio to transcribe their sentences and even attempt a style parody here and there. Finally, he hopes to unravel the story of his parents and childhood in Bogotá, but new memories complicate what he thinks he knows of his past. Few if any of these potentially intriguing plotlines are resolved, leaving the reader with what feels like notes toward a novel. Cárdenas’s literary experiment never quite coheres. (Nov.)

Correction: A previous version of this review misattributed a quote from the book to the narrator, rather than to his sister. It also misidentified the kind of business the narrator worked at as well as some of the writers whose books he reads.