CHROMOS by Felipe Alfau


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Written in the 1940's but never before published, Alfau's second novel (after Locos, reprinted in 1989--not reviewed) is a metafictional fabulation about ""Americaniards"" (Spaniards living in New York): a Borgean romp that juxtaposes traditional narratives (and life in Spain) with the modern rootlessness of immigrants. The presiding presence here is Don Pedro Guzman, otherwise known as ""The Moor,"" who is both a bandleader and a ""character of recondite and esoteric accomplishments."" With ""a formidable walking stick,"" he enters the narrative to wax philosophical and metaphorical, and to hold together a disparate band of Americaniards. The narrator, on the other hand, mediates between Guzman, who ""always spoke of everything in the most fantastic manner,"" and Garcia, who is writing a fictional epic about a Spanish family, much of which is reprinted and commented upon in Chromos. Garcia and the narrator walk the streets of New York and argue about the novel--its plausibility, its rationale, its melodrama. Meanwhile, Garcia, who ""did not like to work at anything regular"" (due to an ""Anglo-Saxon Fsychosis""), incorporates events around him into his fantastic story as various characters meet and reminisce (about the old life and the new); witness the demolition of a building in Spanish Harlem; and dance to Guzman's direction. It's all marvelously inventive and incident-filled, yet poignant: the Americaniards both lose and gain an identity. ""Perhaps the order in which incidents happen may not always be as acceptable as the pattern they form when seen in their totality."" Here, Alfau has it both ways--in a multilayered novel whose late publication is itself a commentary on the modernist fragmentary world he so expertly evokes.

Pub Date: April 16th, 1990
ISBN: 1564782042
Publisher: Dalkey Archive