Savage Theories

Pola Oloixarac, trans. from the Spanish by Roy Kesey. Soho, $25 (304p) ISBN 978-1-61695-735-3
Acclaimed in Argentina when it was first released, Oloixarac’s brilliant, dextrous debut novel is a twisty tale of academia, lust, and culture. At its core are three narratives, two of which take place in the present: the adventures of young Kamtchowsky and her boyfriend, Pabst, as they sift their way through the Buenos Aires music, drug, pornography, and video game scenes; and the pursuit of the novel’s narrator, known only as Rosa Ostreech, as she tries to draw the attention of her older professor (by seducing another man), also in Buenos Aires. The third story line begins in 1917 and focuses on a Dutch anthropologist—and later his disciples—as he explores a theory that ties human civilization and behavior to the violence seen in our primate ancestors. These ambitious narrative threads overlap, yet characters disappear for long stretches, making their stories unfold in fits and starts, which may frustrate some. However, the author’s ability to incorporate diverse elements, including 1970s Argentinian sex comedies, early 20th-century psychological theory, Elton John, and Thomas Hobbes singing in bed, makes for a singular and humorous experience. Perhaps best of all is Oloixarac’s prose: discursive, surprising, and off-kilter—like the characters themselves, it reveals a ceaseless appetite for understanding and belonging. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 10/31/2016
Release date: 01/10/2017
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