cover image Among Strange Victims

Among Strange Victims

Daniel Saldaña París, trans. from the Spanish by Christina MacSweeney. Coffee House (Consortium, dist.), $16.95 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-1-56689-430-2

Saldaña París’s first novel to be translated Stateside is a leisurely story of slacking off that’s nicely conveyed in a sharp, cynical tone. Rodrigo (“My level of empathy with human beings is near zero”), finds himself, through a misunderstanding, accidentally married to his museum coworker, Cecilia. But not even marriage can alter his deep-seated indifference (the height of his ambition is masturbating twice on Saturdays), and after an economic crisis forces him out of his job, he leaves Mexico City for the provincial Los Girasoles to stay with his mother. There, he meets his mother’s boyfriend, Marcelo, a “cretin with a Ph.D.” in philosophy, and with whom Rodrigo has more than a little in common. There are fascinating pieces to the narrative: most notably, a Bolaño-esque thread of an early 20th-century poet/boxer named Richard Foret who disappeared in the Gulf of Mexico and whom Marcelo is in Los Girasoles to study. But because the story is driven by characters who don’t really know what they want, readers shouldn’t expect much resolution (the book does culminate in a moment of perfectly logical absurdity, however). Rather, it’s best to read this messy, shaggy picaresque for its ample page-by-page pleasures, which include devilishly clever syntax, a charming tendency to digress, and satisfying flashes of Rodrigo and Marcelo getting their act together. (June)