The construction of a freeway in Cuba prompts a host of madcap antics in this surrealistic novel in stories.
A new road is under construction; this novel’s narrator is observing it; his companion, nicknamed El Autista, is along for the ride, purportedly to make a documentary about it. Within that straightforward structure, though, things get very weird in Lage’s first work translated into English. The narrator performs an emergency heart transplant. Transformers-like robots are built out of hurricanes. A talking car arrives on the scene; so does an army of skateboarding girls. The truth behind the marketing disaster of New Coke is revealed. A taco shop becomes a sex shop. The infant on the cover of Nirvana’s Nevermind, now grown-up, has a cameo; so does eccentric chess grandmaster Bobby Fischer. But though none of this holds together conventionally, Lage is working a consistent theme: things falling apart despite outsize civilizational efforts to keep them together. To that end, there’s probably an allegory to find here about the fate of Cuba in the wake of the Castro era. But the surface-level pleasures are worth experiencing in themselves; Lage’s storytelling is a canny mix of the dystopian, identity-scrambling, futuristic tales of Philip K. Dick (who’s explicitly name-checked) and the queasy themes of Dennis Cooper (not name-checked, but the occasional mentions of necrophilia and flayed skin fit the bill). Toward the end, Lage suggests some of the elements of his literary mission, including “Blurred Genres,” “Animal/Human/Machine Ambiguity,” and “Surrealist Space-Time.” That may not make the point of the story any clearer, but readers comfortable with mashups of SF, myth, post-colonial literature, and horror will find this a provocative and bemusing yarn.
Satirical, absurdist fun.