cover image The Ally

The Ally

Iván Repila, trans. from the Spanish by Mara Faye Lethem. Other Press, $16.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-63542-254-2

In this tepid satire from Repila (The Boy Who Stole Attila’s Horse), a man jump-starts a feminist revolution in Spain. After the unnamed narrator’s boorish roommates sneeringly call him a feminist, he stops to wonder why this epithet rankles him. Soon, he’s attending academic roundtables and lectures on feminism, where he meets and falls for a graduate student, Najwa, whose glasses give her the look of “a highly qualified young woman” and who patiently educates him on the basic tenets of feminist theory. Frustrated by the slow pace of changes in women’s status and efforts toward equality, the narrator adopts an alias and recruits a force called the Phallic State, a band of cartoonishly misogynist brothers, to harass women and provoke a reaction. In response, women form a militant group. Unfortunately, there’s little here to support the set-up. A one-dimensional characters abound, and a smug, tiresome irony reigns—“What a drag to have to reexamine my privilege,” says the narrator—as the novel supplies crude, not particularly entertaining caricatures, warmed over summaries of gender theory, and rapid-fire accounts of the escalating conflict. This sheds little light on the complexities and perils of allyship. (Dec.)