NAVIDAD & MATANZA by Carlos Labbé


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A novel at once transparent and opaque, a paradox characteristic of much metafiction.

At the level of story, we seem to know what’s happening...most of the time. In January 1999, the two children, Alicia (14) and Bruno (19), of a prominent Chilean couple vanish from Matanza, a town on the coast of Chile. Just a day before what seems to have been their abduction, a journalist had interviewed the father, Jose Francisco Vivar, a well-to-do businessman who made his fortune in the video gaming industry. His wife, an illustrious journalist, was equally shaken by the children’s disappearance, and all signs point to a mysterious figure, Boris Real, a young Chilean executive, as the abductor. Boris Real is not his real (no pun intended) name—it’s an alias for Francisco Virditti and even later seems to be an alias for yet another character, a Congolese named Patrice Dounn, who plays that bizarre instrument the theramin and whose concert the Vivars had attended the last evening they saw their children. But wait—it turns out that in an underground laboratory, the journalist who interviewed the father is involved in a strange creative-writing game. This journalist has a code name, “Domingo,” and the six other players are also named after the days of the week in Spanish. In email exchanges, they’re creating a novel and keep retelling the story of Alicia and Bruno’s disappearance; in many versions of the story, Bruno turns up in untoward and unexpected places—at a bar, for example—and, years later, Alicia is seen working as a waitress in a cafe.

In this short novel, Labbé plays an intricate game of appearance and reality, though his game-playing hits the head rather than the heart.

Pub Date: April 22nd, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-934824-92-4
Page count: 92pp
Publisher: Open Letter
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2014


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