cover image Jakarta


Rodrigo Márquez Tizano, trans. from the Spanish by Thomas Bunstead. Coffee House, $16.95 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-56689-563-7

Márquez Tizano’s debut is a feverishly depicted panorama of a city laid low by a series of surreal events and misfortunes. An unnamed narrator and his partner rarely leave the room they share as their illness-ravaged city teeters on the brink of disaster outside, its citizens enlivened only by a vast gambling network centered on a near-sacred sport. As some new horror approaches, the narrator chronicles his childhood teachers and their bizarre lessons, his life as a former hazmat worker during the peak of the “Z-bug” epidemic, and later as a refugee in a series of underground tunnels meant to prevent the spread of the virus. As he recalls these strange, apocalyptic experiences, he describes a unique cast of characters, including his prophetic, prolific friend Morgan, whose journals seem to be sending messages to the narrator, and his partner Clara, who has discovered a strange stone that may or may not be granting her visions of the past. Lacking a clear or typical trajectory, this short novel is dense with imagery and boundless imagination, creating a vividly grotesque reality for those who exist within its society: the disillusioned gamblers, the cleanup crews, the bureaucrats, and the Z-bug’s dead. Blending the wildly dystopian with the mundanity of the everyday, this time-jumping narrative is a bolt of originality from a writer to watch. (Nov.)