Sunday, January 22, 2017

Review: "Reputations" by Juan Gabriel Vasquez

Ever since I read The Sound of Things Falling almost four year ago, everything that Columbian author Juan Gabriel Vasquez has been of the upmost interest to me. That book, its dark brilliance and dreamlike tragedy are only equaled, in my humble opinion by Roberto Bolano’s 2666, and while that book is almost 900 pages, Vasquez brushed that kind of greatness with less than 300. So I’m a bit disappointed that none of his novels have been as good as that one, including this one (although this comes as close to that level of greatness more than his other two novels, The Informers and The Secret History of Costaguna). I was impressed last year by his short story collection, Lover’s on All Saint’s Day, a slim collection of sad and somber stories I have come to expect from this Vasquez, and was eager to read this one, Reputations. It is the shortest of his novels, clocking in at only 187 pages, but they are filled to the brim with revelations, regret and sadness. It opens with Javier Mallarino getting his shoes shined on the eve of receiving quite a high honor for his vocation of a newspaper cartoonist. It is a startling scene of faded notoriety and reflection, but it is also the weakest of the sections, having very little influence on the latter two. During the ceremony, a woman posing as a journalist manipulates her way into his house and reveals herself as someone from Javier’s past: a forgotten, buried memory that terrifies him. What is revealed is convoluted but believable, and while you may find Javier morally responsible for what actually happens, his musings and guilt seem overdramatic to me. Really a mediation on futility and the downsides of influence, this novel keeps my fascination for one of Latin America’s best exports alive and kicking.

Rating: 4/5

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