In Casariego’s witty, thought-provoking novel (translated from Spanish by Bunstead), a man plagued by anxiety attacks resolves to live a full, happy life.
Antón Mallick is a 32-year-old Spaniard in the midst of a deeply personal, existential crisis. On the surface, he seems to have a successful, if unremarkable, life. He has a steady job working with satellites, a large and well-meaning family, and an active social life. However, underneath the surface, Antón suffers from near-debilitating anxiety attacks, his family is highly dysfunctional, and his social life is punctuated by drug use and casual sexual encounters. Antón manages to keep his anxiety in check until a chance encounter at a local store sends him spiraling into a particularly intense attack: While standing in line, he spots a pregnant woman ahead of him buying a set of the Lethal Weapon films. She turns to him and says she’s going to have his baby. Antón’s life is completely transformed by the encounter, which eventually helps set him on a path toward embracing happiness. Armed with books on self-help and philosophy provided by his brother, Zoltan, and sister, Bela, Antón resolves to be happy in life and to look for the mystery woman carrying his child. Casariego succeeds at giving vibrant life to Antón and his world by using a complex, unorthodox narrative structure. Antón’s story is primarily told through journal entries in which he discusses his colorful family history, his desire to be happy, his feelings toward his unborn child, whom he names Dragosi, and his complicated relationships with his siblings. In lengthy sidebars, Antón also critiques the myriad of books given to him by his siblings, and transcripts of Skype conversations offer insights into his connections with his parents. Antón’s life is anything but straightforward, and Bunstead’s lucid translation keeps the narrative clear and cohesive, even when Antón’s life seems to be falling apart.
Antón may not always be a sympathetic character, but his quest could resonate with readers struggling to find meaning in their lives.