cover image The Luminous Novel

The Luminous Novel

Mario Levrero, trans. from the Spanish by Annie McDermott. And Other Stories, $19.95 trade paper (530p) ISBN 978-1-9135-0501-1

The puzzling second work in English from the late Uruguayan author Levrero (1940–2004, after Empty Words) follows a 60-year-old writer named Mario who’s just received a Guggenheim grant. Mario begins keeping a diary until he feels ready to return to what he describes as a “luminous novel,” which he started 16 years earlier, but never finished. Mario can’t sleep; he plays computer games and downloads pornography; tries to quit smoking and using the computer so much; records and analyzes his dreams; reads detective novels; laments the heat; and more than anything, bemoans that his relationship with “beautiful and seductive” Chl is no longer sexual, even though she still brings him food and occasionally spends the night. What Mario does not do, until nearly a year later, is write the novel, which mainly recounts the women he slept with. Indeed, Mario believes that “these days a novel is practically anything you can put between a front and back cover.” It’s a credible documentation of writer’s block and narcissism, but readers will be left wondering what purpose it serves. This is literature in the same way that John Cage’s 4’33” is music. (Aug.)