cover image The Transentients

The Transentients

Sergio Missana, trans. from the Spanish by Jessica Powell. McPherson & Co, $16 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-62054-043-5

In this singular portrait of a dissolving identity, Chilean novelist Missana’s English-language debut, chronicles a man’s curious midlife crisis. Tomás Ugarte, a Chilean advertising executive, has recently quit his job and separated from his wife, and begins to literally see the world through the eyes of others: a destitute woman living on the streets of Santiago; a man caught in a Patagonian snowstorm on a climbing expedition; and a screenwriter hired to write a film funded by a mysterious millionaire whose only requirement is that it feature an old theater house in the Atacama Desert. These episodes leave Tomás unsure as to whether he is meant to intervene in the lives of those whose perspective he briefly inhabits, or glean some Wordsworthian lesson about the immortality of the soul. He risks losing himself within these alternative lives, and yet these displacements are also expressions of his own personality, “different modalities of myself, with the various roles I’d been forced, like everyone else, to perform.” Missana gets off to a slow start, but as the duration and intensity of Tomás’s sojourns increase, so does the narrative pull. This slippery tale about characters trapped in a “warped” but revelatory script offers intriguing reflections on identity and determinism, as well as art and interpretation. (Nov.)