martes, 12 de noviembre de 2013

One damned thing after another

Paradises reviewed for We Love This Book

by Adam Ley-Lange

“History is just one damned thing after another,” Arnold J. Toynbee once said. This would also be an accurate description of Iosi Havilio's Paradises, the sequel to his first novel Open Door.

Following the freak death of her partner Jaime, the unnamed narrator loses her house in the Argentinian countryside and, with her son Simón, moves to a dilapidated guest house in Buenos Aires. To pay rent, she gets a job at the reptile house of the local zoo. She finds a new flat in return for giving injections to an huge invalided woman called Tosca. She goes to parties with her old friend Eloisa.

There is little reflection by any of the characters on their respective positions. The prose is bland and reporter-like. Again, this all adds to the feeling that this is a chronicle of events within a life, and the life is not particularly consciously lived. Perhaps this is why Havilio has been compared to Albert Camus; his main character parallels the existential passivity of Mersault in The Outsider.

Throughout the documentation of daily life, there is one coincidence that reappears – the narrator often comes across the name of Eduardo Ladislao Holmberg, the Argentinian natural historian and novelist. The coincidences are never explained, nor does the author go out of his way to hint at their significance.

Whilst history might be one damned thing after another, the job of historians is to interpret it. This would be a good mindset to bring to Paradises. It's something of a series of dots, which different readers will connect in different ways.