cover image The Revolutionaries Try Again

The Revolutionaries Try Again

Mauro Javier Cardenas. Coffee House (Consortium, dist.), $16.95 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-1-56689-446-3

Cardenas’s exuberant, cacophonous debut novel profiles a group of Ecuadorans trying, some harder than others, to change the political situation in their country. Occasionally taxing but always stimulating, the novel is a kaleidoscopic portrait of the country’s strong-arm oligarchs, populist rabble-rousers, intellectual elite, and suffering workers. The primary character is Antonio, a Stanford graduate from the Ecuadoran town of Guayaquil who hasn’t returned to his native country since leaving 12 years earlier. When an old friend calls him from Ecuador during a period of political upheaval, Antonio, motivated by guilt, nostalgia, and the image of himself “on a white horse returning to solve the problems of transportation, alimentation, lack of sustenation,” agrees. Though the characters are nominally concerned with the future of Ecuador, the book is really a journey into the past of Antonio and the gifted high school friends he left behind, a “mafia of nerdos” who demonstrate their affection through constant, often puerile banter. For some, youthful idealism has succumbed to toadyism or apathy; others, outraged by the country’s disastrous leadership, are earnestly engaged in “conscientizing the people.” The political action tends to take place on the periphery as Cardenas dizzyingly leaps from character to character, from street protests to swanky soirees, and from lengthy uninterrupted interior monologues to rapid-fire dialogues and freewheeling satirical radio programs, resulting in extended passages of brilliance. This inventive novel shares some of the revolutionary spirit of Ecuador’s ill-served people, who, as one character puts it, “want to trounce the same old narratives.” (Sept.)