A Manhattan attorney uses the confusion and grief surrounding a terrorist attack to disappear from his uneventful life.
In this translation of his 2013 short novel, Martín (Woman in Darkness, 2014, etc.) offers up a fable about deferred dreams, the ambiguity of one’s true self, and the pursuit of happiness. Writing in his own voice, the novelist tells the story of a man named Brandon Moy, whom he met at a literary conference in Spain in 2008. On Sept. 10, 2001, prompted by a chance encounter with an old friend, 41-year-old Moy takes stock of his unimaginative marriage and his dreary job managing legal affairs in the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Seeing his friend, Albert Fergus, confronts Moy with memories of all the dreams he once held: to play the saxophone, to write, and to lead an adventurous life. When the terrorist strike kills everyone in his office, Moy (who was late getting to work) throws away his wallet, smashes his cellphone, and takes to the road. “Leaving someone is a betrayal,” Moy thinks. “Dying, on the other hand, is not.” He first travels to Boston, where he takes on the name of Albert Tracy, works in a coffee shop, beds a widow, and reinvents himself. Traveling to Bogotà and later to Spain, Brandon/Albert takes drugs, sleeps with many women, has a gay experience, races cars, and eventually becomes a highly respected poet and intellectual. While Martín’s writing is elegant, the wish fulfillment that drives Moy’s alter ego is wildly indulgent and unrealistic to the point of caricature. Worse, the novel doesn’t even follow through on its whimsical premise. After a brutal racing accident, Brandon wakes to find he has little memory of Albert’s incredible adventures and ultimately opts to return to his life in Manhattan. The book is meant to be a contemplation on the nature of happiness—the title comes from a postcard Brandon sends the author, reading only, “It’s always the same city, but sometimes the roads are more beautiful”—but readers are likely to find it more of a trifle.
A gracefully composed but emotionally empty reflection on middle-age crazy.