A Spanish lawyer’s life falls apart in the days after he’s dumped by his woman.
Spanish novelist Subirana plumbs the depths of despair in this philosophical portrait of a man whose life is becoming undone. We meet 33-year-old attorney Carlos Mestres Ruiz in the hours after his lover, Elisenda, has broken off their yearslong relationship, and he’s a mess. In alcohol-fueled waves, he wanders the streets of Barcelona, wondering where and when things went wrong. “Love is a promise that is never wholly kept,” he tells us. “Strangely, its failure hardly hurts at all. There’s no precise moment, for instance, when we confront disappointment, no precise moment when the illusions are shattered. We give up on love and barely realize it, like someone who grows tired of waiting for a letter and eventually forgets to check the mailbox each morning.” After Carlos misses a courtroom date in the midst of a hangover, his professional life starts to unravel as well. Ruiz’s companion in his mourning is Alberto Cisnerroso, a long-lost friend from university with whom he reconnects and whose nihilistic cynicism he eventually shares. Pulling on a slot machine in yet another bar, Alberto sets Carlos straight. “You pull here and set the universe in motion,” he says. “A simple, straightforward universe, with fixed rules. And you lose: of course you lose, you always lose. That’s the point. To play to lose, to give yourself over to defeat, to fulfill your destiny in a perfect, known, comprehensible microcosm free of lies and deception.” It’s a jaundiced and familiar tale of boy loses girl, but in Subirana’s talented grasp, the novel becomes a more serious and elegant cautionary tale about the importance of being true to one’s real self and the damage that reverberates around us when we try to be who we’re not.
A wonderfully written portrait of a man who must lose everything before he can be free.