The latest addition to our Reviews Section is a piece by Kaitlyn Brady on Jorge Volpi’s In Spite of the Dark Silence, which is translated from the Spanish by Olivia Maciel and available from Swan Isle Press.
Kaitlyn was in my “Introduction to Literary Publishing/Open Letter Internship” class last semester, which included an assignment to write a book review of a work in translation. Kaitlyn’s in my “Translation and World Literature” class this semester, so expect to read another of her reviews in the not-too-distant future . . .
This is the third book of Jorge’s to be translated and published in English. Scribner did In Search of Klingsor, a while back, and one of our first titles was Season of Ash. As Kaitlyn mentions in the review, Jorge is mostly associated with the “Crack Movement,” which was founded by a group of friends and resulted in this manifesto and a number of interesting works. (The most recent one to be translated into English is Eloy Urroz’s Friction.)
Here’s the opening of Kaitlyn’s review:
With In Spite of the Dark Silence, Jorge Volpi puts a new spin on a classic tale of obsession, following the fictional narrator who is consumed with his research of actual Mexican poet and chemist, Jorge Cuesta. The fictionalized biography, in its slightly bizarre nature, weaves the narrator’s research of Cuesta with the downward spiral of his personal life, and will quickly envelop its readers, leaving them with memorable lyrical prose and fragmented sentence structures.
Jorge Volpi is one of the founders of the Crack Movement, a literary movement in Mexico that aimed to break from the cynical, superficial, and outdated movements of the past. The members wished to rupture the contemporary literary conventions of Latin America, such as the expected “magical realism,” creating their own style, and encouraging others to do so as well. Their works reflect a sense of disillusionment and disappointment with the progress of civilization and the modern societal systems, which they contrast with the infinite possibilities inherent in fiction. In Spite of Dark Silence is one of the predecessors of this movement.
“His name was Jorge, like mine, and for that his life hurts me twice,” opens Volpi, as the narrator introduces his growing obsession with Jorge Cuesta. Cuesta, an actual Mexican figure, was a member of Los Contemporánoes, a Mexican literary movement in the twentieth century, who eventually committed suicide in a mental ward. His writing is both overtly and subtly woven into Volpi’s narrative as Jorge compulsively researches the poet, diving deeper and deeper into his life and oeuvre, and blurring the boundaries between the two Jorges.
Click here to read the full piece.