cover image Spiritual Choreographies

Spiritual Choreographies

Carlos Labbé, trans. from the Spanish by Will Vanderhyden. Open Letter, $13.95 trade paper (132p) ISBN 978-1-940953-97-7

The third novel by Chilean novelist and musician Labbé (Loquela) experiments with narrative voice, with results that some readers will find exhilarating and others confusing. With the exception of a politically metaphorical children’s story interjected into the middle of the book—the chapter numbers of which count backward to zero and then forward again—the work alternates between the poetic musings of a paraplegic former lead singer in a rock band and the slightly more conventional narrative “corrections” of these passages by an unidentified editor. Labbé slyly slips between pronouns, so that “I,” “he,” “the boy,” and “the other” frequently change identities. The poetic paraplegic may or may not have a twin brother who is in prison for stabbing him, and a wife who was a percussionist in the band. He almost certainly has a politically active mother. He definitely doesn’t have a name that the reader can discern, a lack he shares with the other characters. Even as Labbé makes sure readers won’t be able to relax into a reliable narrative, he grounds the novel in the details of Chilean life past and present. Not for the casual reader, the book reveals its meaning in tiny shock waves that dissipate almost as quickly as they appear, an effect that will appeal to the right reader. (May)