cover image The Invented Part

The Invented Part

Rodrigo Fresan, trans. from the Spanish by Will Vanderhyden. Open Letter, $18.95 trade paper (552p) ISBN 978-1-940953-56-4

Fresan’s massive novel is obsessed with the way writers cannibalize their lives for material. It’s principally the musings of an unnamed and tormented writer—variously referred to as the Boy, the Young Man, or the Lonely Man—who dreams of being transformed into particles of dark matter by the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva. The novel devotes chunks of its considerable length to the story of the writer’s mentally unstable sister, Penelope, and her marriage to the well-to-do Maxmiliano Karma; blueprints for a book about the Fitzgeralds; and rambling considerations of Anton Chekov and Pink Floyd. A representative sequence has the writer’s emergency trip to a clinic interrupted by a cascade of story ideas, each of which is described and given a title such as “Another Girlfriend in a Coma.” Information overload is Fresan’s métier, so no single scene exists without ironic, metafictional commentary; characterization tends to be swallowed by the abundant digressions, which quote liberally from great novels of the past or deliver a freewheeling exegesis of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. This feels like the work of a writer buried by his own imagination: a working out of real-life vexations and a list of influential antecedents. Though its audience is limited, Fresan’s work is prodigious, and the author’s learning is considerable. (May)