cover image The Incompletes

The Incompletes

Sergio Chejfec, trans. from the Spanish by Heather Cleary. Open Letter, $14.95 trade paper (180p) ISBN 978-1-948830-03-4

In the latest of his discursive novels to be translated, Chejfec (The Planets) composes an intensely ruminative travelogue about a mysterious man. The Argentine narrator thinks back on his compatriot and friend, Felix, who many years ago “decided to leave his country and survive in the world like a wandering planet.” Felix sends back occasional messages from his travels, postcards and notes constituting “only the smallest part of a reality concealed from [the narrator].” The latest of these missives is written on Moscow hotel stationary, whose logo of an open door seems to invite the narrator to speculate on Felix’s hazy life. The hotel, on the outskirts of Moscow, “would serve perfectly as a residence for outcasts, as a hospice for the terminally ill, or as a graveyard for the living dead.” Its manager, Masha, the narrator imagines, is “an imprecise being with the mutable consistency of a dense fog,” whose life is as circumscribed as Felix’s is boundless. The novel has few characters and fewer events. Masha finds a bundle of old currency in an unoccupied room; Felix follows her on her morning errands. In the narrator’s imaginings, each finds the other unknowable, a mere fabrication or character, an “incomplete” whose true nature, like foreign lands, can never be fully apprehended. This is a dense, knotty read that provides glimpses of murky identities behind half-open doors. [em](Sept.) [/em]