When the father of a young daughter loses his job, his wife takes up the role of breadwinner while her husband finds rather unusual ways to pass the time.
Argentinean writer Havilio's (Paradises, 2013, etc.) strange offering will surely contribute to his reputation as a cult author. First, he makes the bold choice to deliver his story as a single unbroken paragraph—an intimidatingly dense prose barrier that forces the reader to scale it as one might climb a wall with precious few footholds. We meet the narrator, José, as he bicycles to his job at the local fireworks factory, only to find his workplace consumed by a massive conflagration. To make ends meet, his wife, Laura, returns to her tiresome job at a publishing company as her husband descends into apathy. “In my determination to do nothing about anything, time slowed down more. And everyone knows that idleness is the shortest road to filth and moral degradation,” José confesses. In tidying up his garden, he goes next door to borrow a spade from his jovial neighbor, Guillermo, only to impulsively bury it hilt-deep in Guillermo’s neck. Yet the next day, the neighbor is fine again. So José continues to kill his victim time and again, usually to the notes of an old jazz classic that gives the novella its name. This bloody rite also seems to stoke José’s sexual urges, punctuating his ever deteriorating relationship with his wife. Yet for all the death, and all the sex, there’s a tedious malaise that hangs over the narrator, whose unreliability and poetic monologue aren’t enough to save this experiment from its own affected nihilism: “A long night lies ahead, and time must be killed somehow or another.”
A bleak existential novel.