cover image A History of Money

A History of Money

Alan Pauls, trans. from the Spanish by Ellie Robins. Melville House (Random, dist.), $24.95 (208p) ISBN 978-1-61219-423-3

The first book published in the U.S. from acclaimed Argentine author Pauls is a stream-of-consciousness novel chronicling a family’s tumultuous relationship with money. The nameless narrator’s mother has left his father and remarried a wealthier man. As the story begins, an executive with a mining company, who is a friend of the narrator’s stepfather, has been sent to deliver a briefcase full of money to a group of striking workers. A bribe? A concession to demands? Payoff for strikebreakers? We never know: the helicopter carrying him crashes, and, though the body is found, the briefcase goes missing. The narrator spends pages evoking the irritating sound the family friend made while chewing crostini, the awful crunching serving as metaphor for a generation’s conspicuous consumption. Such bravura sequences largely take the place of plot—the narrator jumps between reminiscences of his father, reflections on his own life, and stories of his troubled relationship with his mother, darting around time and space, connected by feelings and details but seldom by events. Meanwhile, the economy booms and busts, alternately compounding the family’s calamities and enabling their upswings. Pauls tells the story of this dark and politically troubled period in Argentine history almost entirely through an economic prism, suggesting that materialism is the mother of complicity. This caustic indictment, and the stylistic tour de force through which it’s delivered, should help secure English speakers’ awareness of Pauls as an important writer. (June)