THE NOCILLA TRILOGY by Agustín Fernández Mallo


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Avant-garde Spanish writer Fernández Mallo delivers a curious blockbuster, comprising three novels published separately in Spain from 2006 to 2009: Nocilla Dream, Nocilla Experience, and Nocilla Lab.

Fernández Mallo’s trilogy makes less a coherent tale than a long literary experiment verging on private joke. Named after a group of his acolytes, which in turn named itself after a hazelnut concoction similar to Nutella, the trilogy is about—well, a little bit of everything. At its heart are eccentric characters, often but not always inspired by literature: In Nocilla Dream, the first volume, for instance, a fellow who works long hours in a British textile factory returns home to train for a kind of high-wire acrobatics with a twist: "He and his friend Phil, dangling from a rope slung horizontally between the peaks of two mountains 125 meters up in the air, ironed clothes on an ironing board.” Extreme ironing isn’t for everyone; nor is the fixation of an Argentinian who finds himself in a Las Vegas hotel room boiling rice for his daily meals and reading and rereading the same passage from Jorge Luis Borges each and every day, the one about the map of an empire that corresponds, point by point and to scale, with the actual things and places of that empire. First known as a poet in his native Spain, Fernández Mallo writes with considerable elegance, if sometimes onrushingly: “We look for arguments to take us beyond this paradox, I love paradoxes, or I don’t love them, that’s stupid, it’s just that without them life wouldn’t exist and the planet would be a wasteland….” He's also worked as a theoretical physicist, which explains the frequent bursts of encyclopedic science throughout (“A person traveling in a spaceship near the speed of light for, say, one year as counted on their watch would return to earth to find that hundreds of years had elapsed”), while his punk-rock enthusiasms explain occasional appearances by the likes of singers P.J. Harvey and Bobby Gillespie.

Sometimes puzzling, even inexplicable, but rich. Just the thing for fans of Cortázar—and Borges, too.

Pub Date: Jan. 15th, 2019
ISBN: 978-0-374-22278-9
Page count: 560pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 2018


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