SAVAGE THEORIES by Pola Oloixarac
Kirkus Star


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Set in Buenos Aires, Oloixarac's debut novel ranges widely, from initiation rites to computer hacking, from human prehistory to ketamine-fueled parties.

The mysterious narrator stalks a middle-aged professor, desperate to reveal that she alone understands his brilliant Theory of Egoic Transmissions ("soon I will illuminate the dark side of your philosophy"). Parallel to this narrative runs a sexual picaresque, beginning "amid the violence of the Years of Lead, in the late 1970s." The heroine of this thread, Kamtchowsky, and her boyfriend, Pabst, become involved with another couple. Dark and humorous in turns, the tone is wry, erudite, raunchy, and the text is sprinkled with references to politics, philosophy, anthropology, and pop culture and the occasional illustration. Academic posturing is mocked. A character finds himself "caught in a burst of metatheory as regarded the meaning of jerking himself off." At the heart of Oloixarac's ambitious book lie the human relationship to violence and the significance of our prehistoric shift from prey to weapon-wielding predator. The narrator is interested in "an ontology of human acts," "an anthropology of voluptuousness and war." She sees the individual existing within "a space dense with ghosts and purposeful geometries" where "the totality of past and present points of view...pierce through space, and one another." This could also describe the structure of the novel, making for a sometimes-dizzying ride. The narrator embarks on a calculated seduction of a former leftist guerilla and toys with him, the prey becoming predator. Meanwhile, Kamtchowsky, "little diva of amateur porn," invents a computer game based on Argentina's Dirty War. A hack embedded within it makes possible a project that maps Buenos Aires in a wholly new way ("The city was an utter mess. And yet it was beautiful"), illuminating "the cyclical history of a country where events occurred and then revolved around one another, merely existing, unable to account for themselves."

While there are echoes of Borges and Bolaño here, the synthesis of ideas and the manic intelligence are wholly new. Brilliant, original, and very fun to read.

Pub Date: Jan. 10th, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-61695-735-3
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Soho
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2016


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