cover image Good Offices

Good Offices

Evelio Rosero, trans. from the Spanish by Anne McLean and Anna Milsom. New Directions, $13.95 trade paper (132p) ISBN 978-0-8112-1930-3

In his second novel translated into English, award-winning Rosero (The Armies) documents a night in the life of hunchback and charity worker Tancredo, a man whose church conceals underhanded activities. Despite the simple premise%E2%80%94a parish priest and sacristan's departure results in the evening service being performed by the eccentric, vocally talented Father Matamoros%E2%80%94this slim work becomes a lively enactment of the idiom "When the cat's away, the mice will play," as well as a sobering look at resentment. When the employees who remain behind (including Sabina, the three Lilias, and Tancredo) reveal their displeasure as overworked individuals, among other confessions, they expose the underside of institutionalized care. Fans of Hispanophone literature will appreciate Bogot%C3%A1 serving as the backdrop for simmering passions as well as Catholic corruption. The opening section detailing Tancredo's weekly duties is especially noteworthy; McLean and Milsom perfectly portray the chaotic, yet mundane atmosphere. Character-driven, focused, and determined in its study of appearance versus reality, this social commentary is rendered with colorful aplomb. (Sept.)