cover image The Night

The Night

Rodrigo Blanco Calderón, trans. from the Spanish by Daniel Hahn and Noel Hernández González. Seven Stories, $19.95 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-1-64421-040-6

Venezuelan writer Blanco Calderón weaves a labyrinthine study of language, writers, and obsession against a backdrop of rampant femicides and the energy and political crises in contemporary Caracas. Three characters alternate the narration. There’s Matías Rye, a struggling writer who runs writing workshops at a local high school and is working on a novel titled The Night; Miguel Ardiles, a psychiatrist who loves to blur boundaries with his clients and dreams of being a writer; and Pedro Álamo, a writer obsessed with palindromes, anagrams, acrostics, and double-texts, cleverly translated by Hahn and Hernández González: “Alone, too, by myself, but noble, no regrets. You know the line, I suppose? But it can also be read as A loan to buy mice, elf, but no bell nor egrets.” A plethora of other real and fictitious characters, mostly writers, inhabit the text in various ways, including Darío Lancini, a Venezuelan poet who wrote a 750-word palindrome, and Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, whose early 20th-century investigations into anagrams are intriguingly juxtaposed with contemporary murder investigations in Caracas. What emerges is a wild and complex celebration of language and storytelling. While dense, the result is exhilarating and entertaining. (Nov.)