The Lizard's Tale

Jos%C3%A9 Donoso, trans. from the Spanish by Suzanne Jill Levine. Northwestern Univ., $24.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0810127029
This unfinished novel by prominent Chilean novelist Donoso (A House in the Country) presents itself as a posthumously published work narrated by fictional artist Antonio Muñoz-Roa. Having renounced painting after the rise of the Spanish "Informalist" movement to protest the increasing commercialization of art, Antonio winds up "killing a whole half of myself." During lengthy reflections, he considers questions of idealism, the impact of falling into obscurity, envy, being an outsider, and whether public disavowals are worth the personal cost. Without painting, he spirals into memory, pitting the purity of creativity against its after-effects—galleries, critics, and shifting tastes. In Levine's ruminative and rhapsodic translation, the familiar character of a tortured artist becomes human, and readers come to understand a man who temporarily finds refuge from modern life on a road trip to the countryside, and during an escapade in house renovation. Thwarted by the reality that change is inevitable, Antonio retreats into himself when the village he adopts gives way to tourism. With its spare plot and deeply introspective protagonist, this recovered fragment in Donoso's oeuvre will be most appealing to existing fans. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/15/2011
Release date: 10/01/2011
Genre: Fiction
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