cover image Quiet Creature on the Corner

Quiet Creature on the Corner

Joao Gilberto Noll, trans. from the Portuguese by Adam Morris. Two Lines Press (PGW, dist.), $9.95 trade paper (120p) ISBN 978-1-931883-51-1

Noll is a prize-winning Brazilian author and readers will be delighted that his 1991 mid-career work has now been translated into English. In this bizarre mystery, the unnamed protagonist is a hapless, horny poet in Porto Alegre who's lost his job and is squatting with his mother in an unfinished building. After a brief encounter with a girl who lives upstairs, the poet is arrested for rape and jailed. He is bemused by this, but even more so when he is rescued (or is he?) from the situation by a mysterious man named Kurt, who takes the poet to a large estate in the country where Kurt lives with his wife, Gerda, and a younger relative, Otavio. The poet is given a room supplied with blank sheets of paper, and is asked for nothing in return, "as if they only wanted my negligent company as I wrote my verses." At first he goes for walks; enjoys sexual encounters with the maid, Amalia; and sometimes witnesses strange things that make no sense. But after Gerda gets sick, time begins to play tricks. Kurt is aging%E2%80%94indeed, the poet himself is aging%E2%80%94faster than seems natural. It would appear that this is a tale of a young man in search of identity, but the poet never really registers anything as particularly real or concrete. He seems to wander through a world constructed for him, wondering at its meaninglessness, but with only enough curiosity to keep him putting one foot in front of the other. He is not outraged, as Camus's Meursault is outraged, by the absurdity of the human condition. True to postmodern tradition, the author does not seem particularly keen on teaching his readers anything by telling this story, but the readers who will enjoy this slim book won't mind the lack of moral lesson; in fact, that's more or less the point. (May)