The Clouds

Juan Jose Saer, trans. from the Spanish by Hilary Vaughn Dobel . Open Letter, $14.95 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-940953-34-2
In this wonderful, gleeful novel from Argentinian author Saer (Scars), a floppy disk is unearthed containing the supposed memoir of one Dr. Real, a devotee of the brilliant, womanizing Dutch psychiatrist Dr. Weiss. Real's main subject is the 1804 sojourn Weiss sends him on to retrieve five patients from the provincial city of Santa Fé. The list includes Prudencio Parra, a nobleman's son who clenches his fist until it bleeds; Troncoso, a fellow who compulsively rhymes his speech; Juan Verde, who is only able to say the words "morning, noon, and night," and his younger brother, Verdecito, whose verbal exchanges are "hampered" by his reliance on "screams, grunts, [and] belches"; and a nymphomaniac nun. The absurdity of these visions is adeptly ballasted by Saer's sublime rendering of "the triple vastness of the countryside, the night, and the stars" the convoy must pass through on its way back to Buenos Aires. It is here, on the "flattest, emptiest, most wretched part of the plain," that Real and his escort must contend with floods, an escaped patient, and a wildfire. Saer's method, through it all, is clear—Real may have devoted his life to the treatment of "diseases of the mind," but it is only on the plain that he begins to truly "glimpse the nightmare" of mental maladies. (May)
Reviewed on: 06/13/2016
Release date: 05/01/2016
Open Ebook - 177 pages - 978-1-940953-35-9
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