cover image Empty Set

Empty Set

Veronica Gerber Bicecci, trans. from the Spanish by Christina MacSweeney. Coffee House (Consortium, dist.), $16.95 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-56689-494-4

Bicecci’s experimental novel takes a unique approach to topics like debilitating loneliness, political repression, and epistemological crises. The narrator is Veronica, an aspiring visual artist, who lives with her brother in “the bunker,” a Mexico City apartment from which their mother, an exile who fled the Argentinian dictatorship, vanished when they were teenagers. Living in this “time capsule where everything is in a state of permanent neglect,” both siblings are “professional suspicionists” whose mother’s disappearance has affected the way they see the world: “Events always had a dark side, a shaded area we couldn’t make out, one that, despite being empty, always meant something more.” The novel whimsically chronicles Veronica’s various attempts to plumb these unknowable depths by studying tree rings, reading Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, and sifting through the papers of a deceased writer whose history mirrors her mother’s. In further efforts to decipher life’s mysteries, she also represents her familial and romantic relationships as Venn diagrams, which (among other illustrations) are reproduced in the text: “Visualized this way, ‘from above,’ the world reveals relationships and functions that are not completely obvious.” The graphics may strike readers as more gimmicky than revelatory, but nonetheless Bicecci has created a charming, elliptical novel. (Feb.)