cover image Last Words on Earth

Last Words on Earth

Javier Serena, trans. from the Spanish by Katie Whittemore. Open Letter, $14.95 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-948830-32-4

Spanish writer Serena debuts with a stunning portrait of a Roberto Bolaño–esque writer who strikes literary gold while facing a terminal lung disease. Like Bolaño’s alter ego in The Savage Detectives, Peruvian-born writer Ricardo Funes works at a series of campgrounds in coastal Spain while in his 20s. Fernando Vallés, a successful 30-something writer, visits and befriends Funes at Castelldefels, where Funes has gained a reputation for getting into heated debates over Latin American literature, but hasn’t published much himself. “It’s strange to think how forsaken he was back then,” Vallés recalls, “given the commotion caused, decades later, by any old manuscript found on his computer.” Vallés then spends the next two decades trekking from Barcelona to Funes’s home in Lloret, where Funes settles down with his wife, Guadalupe, and has two children. Guadalupe’s narration dramatically humanizes the now-mythical writer, describing his series of rejections, extended bouts of writer’s block, and cavalier approach to his worsening illness. Funes’s remarkable concluding monologue, which features a nested story invoking Borges’s “The South,” recalls his surprising and bittersweet success with heartbreaking depth, as he ramps up his productivity in order to leave a legacy for his family. This is a wonder. (Sept.)