During long walks through an unfamiliar Brazilian city, where he is attending a literary conference, an Argentine novelist free-associates on the nature of writing, memory, surroundings and human interaction.
This first novel by New York–based Argentine native Chejfec to be translated into English is a slim, gracefully discursive work. The unnamed 49-year-old writer, who we assume is very much like Chejfec, is determined to find his way to a park without the benefit of a map—an intuitive, improvisational approach that reflects his thought process. For the narrator, consciousness works like the Internet, one observance or reference point linking to another. But though his walks all begin with a sense of adventure and possibility, they quickly leave him in a state of uselessness and boredom, leading him not to revelations but a "nostalgic anxiety." Word that his new novel is getting poor reviews doesn't help his mood. For all that, the novel never hits a dull patch in reflecting on the duality of writers who exist with one foot in reality and the other in imagination. Chejfec is especially good in analyzing our relationships with simple passed-on objects such as cigarette lighters and watches, which have a penchant for "concealing the history they have witnessed, in complete silence." It's up to writers like him to make them speak. Combining the documentary insight of W.G. Sebald with the fanciful flights of Italo Calvino, the book allows us to enter the thoughts of a restless intellectual whose streams of thought involve the reader in his quest to find meaning in everything he sees and does.
A short but penetrating novel about coexisting in the material world and the world of thought.