cover image Simone


Eduardo Lalo, trans. from the Spanish by David Frye. Univ. of Chicago, $17 trade paper (152p) ISBN 978-0-226-20748-3

The streets of San Juan come alive in this sparkling literary tale of love and obsession, winner of the prestigious Rómulo Gallegos International Novel Prize. A mysterious woman pursues the unnamed narrator, who is a struggling writer, by leaving cryptic notes for him tucked away in books, written on the pavement and in strange emails, and taped to cinema projectors around the city. The notes show some familiarity with the writer’s work and are signed “Simone.” Who is this person? Why is she tracking him? The labyrinthine pursuit consumes both of them until, finally, they meet. The resulting encounter is haunting and confounding. Throughout the book, Lalo’s characters are animated by aimless wandering around the city, long bookish conversations, wordplay, and an awareness of their place in the world. The narrator asks, “What are these streets but my own life?” The book ends with a debate among several writers about the role of Latin American literature that feels like it could stand alone as a manifesto on the subject. Lalo’s other novels have yet to appear in English, but one hopes that will change after the release of this book; his work will find an appreciative audience in those seeking mystery and an acute attention to language. (Oct.)