Locos: A Comedy of Gestures

Felipe Alfau, Author, Mary McCarthy, Designed by Dalkey Archive Press $19.95 (206p) ISBN 978-0-916583-30-9
Out of print for half a century, this wildly surreal fable mirrors Spain in moral decay, in the years before a fascist takeover. Among the bizarre characters we meet are Garcia, a prematurely white-haired poet who becomes a fingerprint analyst; Dona Valverde, a pious, necrophiliac widow who enjoys touching corpses at funerals; and Sister Carmela, a nun who seemingly elopes with her own brother. Strangest of all is Senor Olozagaolive-skinned giant, ex-butterfly charmer in a circus, who was reared by Spanish monks in China and now runs an agency for selling dead people's clothes. The sundry misfits gather at the Cafe of the Crazy in Toledo, where hard-up writers, among them the author, hang out in search of exploitable characters; mistaken identities, outlandish situations, interchangeable roles abound. Is this Pirandello? Actually, it's closer to the somnambulistic tales of the French surrealists; you keep reading this hypnotic novel the way a sleeping person wants to keep on dreaming. In an afterword, McCarthy compares Locos to the modernist detective novels of Nabokov, Calvino and Eco. Maybe, but surely most of the sleuthing consists of figuring out the characters' interconnections in the Byzantine plot. Alfau neatly skewers Spain's fatalism, its obsessions with death and sin. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1989
Release date: 01/01/1989
Paperback - 206 pages - 978-0-679-72846-7
Paperback - 206 pages - 978-1-56478-171-0
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