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LET NO ONE SLEEP by Juan José Millás


by Juan José Millás ; translated by Thomas Bunstead

Pub Date: Aug. 23rd, 2022
ISBN: 978-1-942658-93-1
Publisher: Bellevue Literary Press

A woman’s change in careers leads to a bizarre series of obsessions.

The protagonist of Millás’ novel wrangles with driving a taxi, the nature of desire, and the opera Turandot. That would be Lucía, who begins the book working in an office but soon takes a test to become a taxi driver and embraces her new line of work—and occasionally has assignations with her passengers. That summary doesn’t entirely convey how strange this novel can get, however. Lucía views a number of the people she encounters as bird people, noting of one man that “​​his nose was an eagle’s beak.” Later, she asks one of her passengers if he’s “never cheated on [his] wife with a Mama Bird before?” The other surreal strand in this book is Lucía’s obsession with Turandot, a Puccini opera about a Chinese princess whose suitors face the prospect of death while attempting to win her hand. Occasionally, Lucía blurs the lines between herself and the fictional character, donning makeup and telling one passenger, “I’m a Chinese princess. Haven’t you looked at my eyes? My name’s Turandot.” Lucía has a fascination with an actor named Braulio Botas, who also has an interest in the overlap of life and art; late in the book, he tells her, “I’ve been looking for a door that connects with reality, and you opened that door with the story of your life.” It’s heady stuff which takes a deeply visceral turn at novel’s end. It doesn’t always click perfectly—and there are fascinating implications of its premise that the novel doesn’t address—but the bizarre assemblage of elements Millás brings together here makes for a memorable read.

A strange and often transgressive exploration of art and intimacy.