cover image The Things We’ve Seen

The Things We’ve Seen

Agustín Fernández Mallo, trans. from the Spanish by Thomas Bunstead. Fitzcarra

Mallo (The Nocilla Trilogy) delivers another work of postmodern, Dalí-esque surrealism with this mind-bending novel. An unnamed writer from Mallorca attends a conference, suffers amnesia, moves to New York City, and eventually travels to Uruguay to restore a manuscript to its rightful owner’s family. Kurt Montana, a fictitious fourth astronaut aboard Apollo 11 for the moon landing, navigates America’s postwar, hyper-consumerist ennui. A third thread follows a woman, also unnamed, who is heartbroken after losing her lover and goes on a walking pilgrimage across the coast of Normandy. All three characters, though they never meet, wander flaneur-like as they work through their ideas (the woman, for instance, reflects on how a couple can turn into a “single mutant creature”), take photographs, listen to the lives of strangers, and search for meaning. Throughout, Mallo’s prose is enticing—at times conversational, exhilarating, hilarious, and deeply quirky. If a through line emerges, it’s in the ideas, which revolve around the trash heap of postwar wreckage and consumption (the writer calls New York a “temple of detritus”). Out of this trash, Mallo has crafted a remarkable work. (June)