This fifth novel, and second in an English translation (following Travels of the Century, 2012), from the Spanish author, born in Argentina, explores an impending death from cancer and how it affects three family members.
Mario has terminal cancer. He and his wife, Elena, have kept it a secret from their 10-year-old son, Lito. The three take turns voicing their thoughts. Neuman keeps context to a minimum, never even identifying the Latin American country in which the story is set. Mario was a travel agent who later joined the family trucking business. Since he is enjoying a temporary respite, he indulges Lito by taking him along in the truck on his last business trip (merchandise unknown), hoping this will create a beautiful memory for the boy. Lito enjoys traveling, but it’s a remarkably uneventful long haul, save for a brief encounter in a bar with a guy claiming to be a magician. The boy is fascinated, but Mario hurries him out of there, suspecting the guy is a pedophile. The real action is on the homefront. Elena begins having sex with Ezequiel Escalante, the doctor who is treating Mario and who is separated from his wife. She loves her husband but not his ravaged body. She needs a buffer against mortality, and Ezequiel provides it; her orgasms are “monstrous.” Opposing sex to death is nothing new, of course, and Neuman provides no insights of his own, preferring to rely on the words of the many writers Elena cites. But it’s clear that this is Elena’s story, and the monologues of her husband and son distract from it.
A slight work, on both the personal and metaphysical level.