TWILIGHT AT THE EQUATOR by Jaime Manrique

TWILIGHT AT THE EQUATOR

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Poet and novelist Manrique (Latin Moon in Manhattan, 1992, etc.) returns with further tales of Santiago (Sammy) Martinez, a gay Colombian writer/filmmaker tormented by past and present horrors despite his picaresque, cosmopolitan life. In the first of five sections, Sammy is living an impoverished, bohemian life in the homophobic Madrid of the '70s. Cadging meals, raptly watching Pasolini movies, and posing as a Texan to get English-teaching jobs, he falls in love first with a naive, devoted teenaged boy and then with a worldly friend from Colombia. But Sammy's true purpose is to become ``the Colombian Sylvia Plath''; and in a frantic two weeks, he writes a violent, surrealistic novel designed to shock his family. Manrique's narrative takes a turn for the bizarre as we are plunged into a long, dreamlike fiction-within-a-fiction, apparently part of Sammy's work. In Sammy's tale, a farcically aristocratic Colombian diplomat smothers his dying father, whose body is stolen from the funeral parlor during the raucous, sex-and-death-suffused atmosphere of Carnival. Some autobiographical links between Sammy and his creation become apparent in subsequent sections, as Sammy explores his own feelings about illness, family, and his native country. Many years later, he finds work as a film professor in New York. Working on a documentary about the homeless, he can only watch helplessly as a brilliant student succumbs to crack addiction while chronicling his self-destruction in a film inspired by Kafka's ``Hunger Artist.'' In the last major episode here, Sammy finally returns to Colombia. As he visits friends and family, Sammy confronts Colombia's tumultuous politics, remembers past events both joyous and terrible, and uncovers his druglord uncle's brutal history. The material is dark and the narrative disjointed, but Manrique handles his complicated story with deftness and ready humor. A powerful take on various forms of violence, suicide, political repression, sexual abuse, and the possibility of transcending them through love and art. (Author tour)

Pub Date: March 25th, 1997
ISBN: 0-571-19901-1
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Faber & Faber/Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1997




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