cover image Mona


Pola Oloixarac, trans. from the Spanish by Adam Morris. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $25 (192p) ISBN 978-0-374-21189-9

Argentinian writer Oloixarac (Dark Constellations) offers a smart, provocative take on contemporary literary culture. At the novel’s opening, Stanford doctoral candidate Mona, a deeply cynical Peruvian, wakes up on a train platform in Palo Alto, Calif., with her body badly bruised and no memory of how she came to be in such a state. She quickly cleans up so she can travel to Sweden for a conference where she’s been nominated for an award. At the event, speakers express anxiety about technology’s impact on literature, but far more interesting are Mona’s exchanges with fellow writers and her theory-infused interior monologues. Aware that being a Latina gives her a “chic sort of cultural capital” with American universities, she reflects on the tendency of writers to play up “their own local colors.” After Mona hooks up with another writer who notices her bruises, her memories of the injuries sustained back at Stanford start to return. While a sudden and not entirely successful swerve into fantasy makes for an abrupt ending, Mona’s spirited opining gives readers much to engage and argue with. The rich inner life of its namesake character propels this vibrant examination of the writing world. Agent: Maria Lynch, Casanovas & Lynch Literary. (Mar.)