cover image Loquela


Carlos Labb, trans. from the Spanish by Will Vanderhyden. Open Letter (, $13.95 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-1-940953-24-3

The interplay between fiction, nonfiction, and the mysterious space between is the subject of Chilean writer Labb%C3%A9's challenging novel. To begin with, the narrator is a frustrated young Santiago-based writer writing a novel about a man named Carlos ("actually just the opposite of me, I'm a coward. He's fearless, he acts"). The writer receives a mysterious letter from a murdered albino girl named Violeta Drago, a childhood friend of his cousin, Alicia. From Alicia, for whom he nurses a secret desire, he obtains Violeta's notebooks, wherein she had detailed an imaginary city called Neutria, a sordid secret life, and an enigmatic literary movement called Corporalism, whose total output is apparently a confined to a single work. Once the writer puts Carlos, his creation, on the case, it's hardly a surprise when hitherto fictional characters begin popping up in the real world. As complexities mount, the writer finds himself caught between three contingent realities that interrupt, overlap, and gradually reveal one another. If all of this sounds intimidatingly convoluted, it is%E2%80%94by design. Labb%C3%A9 is testing the boundaries of life and fiction, working explicitly in the tradition of Maurice Blanchot and Julio Cort%C3%A1zar, and against more complacent writers who "divide themselves into chapters." This novel is a deeply personal exploration of self and stranger, the book and the world, murderer and victim. Although perhaps ambitious to a fault, Labb%C3%A9 has much to offer the reader willing to peer behind the curtain of language to the secret desires within. (Dec.)