“At night we come up with daring plans that would change us completely, were they to become a reality. But these plans dissolve in the morning light, and we go back to being the same mediocrities as before, doggedly ruining our own lives.”
Longlisted for the 2018 National Book Award for Translated Literature
Comemadre by Roque Larraquy, translated from the Spanish by Heather Cleary, is one of the most bizarre, darkly comic and fascinating books that I’ve read this year. This very short book, that you could probably read in one sitting, actually contains two storylines: the first part is set in 1907 in a sanatorium in Argentina, close to Buenos Aires, and follows a group of doctors that are conducting gruesome experiments in order to investigate the threshold between life and death, and the second part is set in 2007 and follows an avant-garde artist, and former child prodigy, that is ready to go to extreme lengths to push the boundaries of art, and to leave his mark on the World.
I hadn’t heard much about this book and picked it up on a whim because I was drawn to the striking pink cover and the intriguing title, and this book did not disappoint. Although, in retrospect, I don’t think I was prepared to find out what the title was referring to…*shudders*
From the very first pages, it became clear that this was going to be a wild ride. The author was very successful at creating a sense of dread and keeping me on the edge of my seat as I was reading the story. The book essentially explores the lengths that people will go in pursuit of their goals, and to peek behind the curtain at something mysterious and metaphysical.
While both of the sections were very interesting, I must admit that I was more engrossed in the first storyline following the group of doctors at the sanatorium. It was quite disturbing, yet morbidly fascinating, to read about their “scientific” methods, and the manipulative ways that some of the doctors tried to establish some kind of dominance over their colleagues either to advance their career or to impress a woman. This book contains some excellent examples of “toxic masculinity”.
What stuck out to me most in the book was its tone; the narrative is a rare mix between the macabre and the darkly funny, and often makes you, as the reader, nervously chuckle at some of the scenes that you probably wouldn’t normally consider as funny.
“This fellow killed his wife because she wouldn’t tell him what she was doing on the bidet?”
“It’s a metaphor, Quintana.”
This is definitely not a book for people who are easily offended, or sensitive to scenes of violence. For fans of weird fiction, like Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin, this is a must-read!