cover image Austral


Carlos Fonseca, trans. from the Spanish by Megan McDowell. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $27 (224p) ISBN 978-0-374-60665-7

Fonseca (Natural History) explores art, violence, and madness in his stunning latest. After celebrated author Alicia Abravanel dies before finishing her final novel, her old friend Julio Gamboa receives a letter expressing Alicia’s wishes that he edit the work. Upon arriving in Humahuaca, Argentina, where Alicia chose to spend her last days, Julio’s given the sprawling manuscript of A Private Language, which takes the form of a journal based on diaries from Alicia’s father, Yitzhak Abravanel. In it, Alicia describes his experiences in a Swiss sanitorium, where he listened to a renowned anthropologist recount his travels to Paraguay in the 1960s to write about the failed Aryan colony of New Germany, which was founded in 1886 by Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche. As Julio burrows into Alicia’s recollections, his own past mistakes come to the surface. Unspooling the story across multiple timelines and places, Fonseca brilliantly interrogates the notion that, as Yitzhak states in his journal, “Repeating the past is a way of doing it justice.” This is an evocative excavation of memory, loss, and legacy. Agent: Sandra Pareja, Massie & McQuilkin. (May)