cover image Rene's Flesh

Rene's Flesh

Virgilio Pinera, Virgilio Piinera. Eridanos Press, $17.95 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-941419-40-6

Pinera's (1912-1979) dark and defiant novel unforgettably amplifies the absurdist themes so startlingly introduced in his short-story collection, Cold Tales . Rene is 20, ripe for education in the cult of flesh, ``not of intact, athletic flesh, but of slain meat, truly alive and throbbing like a wound.'' Rene's father exhorts him to elect the path of suffering, sending the reluctant hero to a school for pain and torture where the doctrine that ``knowledge must be beaten into a person'' is implemented literally. Pinera, a Cuban, fashions a world that is completely carnal--only sometimes erotic--where slaughterhouses are given names like those of banks (``The Equitable Butchers Shop''), where man himself is meat or flesh destined for the knife and where freedom is achieved only by the willing sacrifice of that flesh. The mercilessness of this moral vision is charged by quicksilver storytelling, passionate and boisterously savage. (May)