cover image Toño the Infallible

Toño the Infallible

Evelio Rosero, trans. from the Spanish by Anne McLean and Victor Meadowcroft. New Directions, $17.95 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-0-8112-2881-7

The engrossing latest from Colombian writer Rosero (Stranger to the Moon) plumbs the depths of an artist’s depravity. When 50-year-old writer Eri answers his door one evening, he is greeted by Toño, a former friend and tormentor whom he hasn’t seen for 20 years. Toño is in poor health, and confesses to his wife’s murder before passing out. As Eri struggles with Toño’s reappearance, he recalls their teenage interactions, which include the affluent Toño’s possible involvement in multiple sexual assaults, as well as Eri’s eventual decision to break off their friendship. As years pass, Eri hears rumors of Toño starting a commune and staging horrific art installations—graphic performances included reenactments of the Holocaust and the genocidal conquest of the Americas, though most upsetting to the authorities was a performance involving a naked Jesus and lovesick Mary Magdalene. Back in the present, Eri watches over the ailing Toño and wonders how much of the man’s life is merely myth. Rosero swiftly navigates the recursive timeline, and he offsets dark and decadent flashbacks with Eri’s struggle to parse truth from embellishment, right up to Toño’s present-day claim about his wife’s murder. Though some moments are difficult to stomach, the result is a sharp commentary on the human capacity for brutality. (Sept.)