THE ADVENTURES OF MAQROLL by Alvaro Mutis

THE ADVENTURES OF MAQROLL

Four Novellas

KIRKUS REVIEW

 Colombian-born Mutis continues in baroque prose the saga of his seafaring hero Maqroll (Maqroll, 1992) with a narrative reminiscent of Conrad and John Buchan, but without the insights of the former or the excitement of the latter. Two of the four novellas record the adventures of Maqroll; a third details those of Abdul Bashur, scion of a Lebanese ship- owning family and Maqroll's dearest comrade and co-conspirator in mischief; and the fourth relates the sentimental love affair of Warda, Bashur's sister. The narrator is again the unnamed ``I,'' whose life often resembles that of the author. Maqroll the Gaviero (``the look-out'') is ``a man without country or law, who submits to the ancient dice that roll for the amusement of the gods and the mockery of mortals.'' His shady adventures, though given a 20th- century gloss--arms smuggling for liberation groups and swindling customs officials--belong more to the past. Both ``Amirbar,'' the novella in which Maqroll finds gold after many picaresque adventures in the jungle (only barely to escape with his life) and ``Triptych on Sea and Land'' (in which the now-aging Maqroll recalls an old shipmate's suicide, his encounters with a famous Colombian painter, and his brief guardianship of Bashur's only son) are sentimental and schematic evocations of adventure and character rather than original workings of old themes. Maqroll is a construct, as is the equally shady Abdul, celebrated in ``Abdul Bashur, Dreamer of Ships,'' in which an obsession with old ships leads to a near-fatal encounter with a sinister drug dealer. And the affair between beautiful and intelligent Warda Bashur (``The Tramp Steamer's Last Port of Call'') and the captain of a rusty tramp steamer that finally sinks in Venezuela, has an elegant symmetry but no life to touch the heart. Good on mood and atmosphere; but, like those restaurants with a view and only so-so food, it lacks the essential substance.

Pub Date: Feb. 28th, 1995
ISBN: 0-06-017004-2
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1995




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