Memories of Altagracia, by Salvador Garmendia

While other more renowned Spanish-language writers have disappointed a little this month, this novel – a disguised memoir – by the Venezuelan writer Salvador Garmendia, I enjoyed.

It starts off in a seemingly magic realist style. A child’s naturalistic description of the world of his town gradually slips into a more fanciful realm. But it becomes clear, after a time, that this is not strangeness for its own sake, but that the child is drifting off from the real world into a world of fantasy. It was this method, in fact, that I liked about the book: the notion of how, to the child, everything he encounters is the basis for some outlandish dream; and also too, the way at times the child – distracted by something else – completely loses interest in what a moment before had him entirely enthralled.

Later on, however, the book seems to drift off and lose its way a little, slipping back into history and a story about a mechanic who dreams of building his own truck from scratch – becomes, that is, a bit more like many another South American novel. (I sense García Márquez throughout, and his Macondo).

I also read Francisco Ayala‘s Usurpers, which largely consists of straight-forward tales of usurpers and power politics taken from Spanish history.


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