El Jardin Devastado: Una Memoria

Jorge Volpi, Author Alfaguara $19.99 (182p) ISBN 978-970-58-0448-9
Short as it is, this extraordinarily developed novel by the ever intriguing Mexican author Volpi [En busca de Klingsor, (Looking for Klingsor)] packs an expansive cultural and temporal punch. It transports readers among Iraq, Mexico, and various university towns of the Eastern seaboard where the semiautobiographical narrator finds himself exiled, all the while moving between the real and abstract spiritual realms. The focus here is on women, both passing lovers and memorable obsessions, among them two more thoroughly examined characters-one Mexican, one Iraqi-whose development on the way to the book's disturbing and thought-provoking climax is traced via micro-chapters (as brief as a sentence) throughout the narrative. Volpi's distinctive global perspective informs this book, as it does so much of his work, and he leaves us to draw our own connections between seemingly disconnected episodes. Pointed criticisms of U.S. policies in Iraq, the behavior of soldiers there, the aftermath of 9/11, and electoral anomalies in Mexico all find their way into the story, which is largely about trying to come to grips with neck-snapping current events. Infused with aphorisms faintly reminiscent of Khalil Gibran, this work distills its text and part of its title from a 100-entry daily blog that the author maintained earlier this year. The book design, by Eduardo T\xE9llez, uses Arabic letters and script to enhance the ambience. By turns cryptic, philosophical, and even poetic, this novel marks an interesting departure for a challenging writer. Recommended for libraries and bookstores serving readers of serious experimental fiction.-Bruce Jensen, Rohrbach Lib., Kutztown, PA
Reviewed on: 09/29/2008
Release date: 10/01/2008
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