cover image The Absolute

The Absolute

Daniel Guebel, trans. from the Spanish by Jessica Sequeira. Seven Stories, $19.9

Argentine writer Guebel’s exceptional English-language debut serves up the multigenerational tale of the historical Deliuskin-Scriabin family, a motley bunch of artists, scientists, and politicians. Guebel begins with the story of composer Frantisek Deliuskin, who, in 18th-century Russia, finds inspiration in sex (“It’s like living in a heaven that flows with scents and skins and moans,” he writes in a journal). Then there’s Frantisek’s son, Andrei, orphaned as a child, whose annotations of St. Ignatius Loyola’s work are used by Lenin to organize 1917’s Russian Revolution. Esau Deliuskin, Andrei’s son, leads a Robin Hood–style gang, escapes from prison after being convicted for an assassination attempt on Archduke Franz Ferdinand, then leads a failed socialist settlement. Esau’s son, Alexander Scriabin, who is lost in a crowd at age three from his mother and twin, Sebastian, before the others embark for Buenos Aires, is raised for a time by Russian soldiers and later employed by a controversial writer and mystic. Later, he becomes a famous pianist with an unfinished masterpiece. Sebastian Deliuskin, who grows up in Argentina and also becomes a pianist, has a daughter who narrates the book. As the characters experience love, jealousy, and despair, Guebel offers erudite meditations on music, art, and philosophy, all marked by a superb use of language. This is best savored slowly. (Apr.)