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Deliriumby Laura Restrepo
Delirium's interwoven voices spun me into its web; from the first pages, I fell into its spell. Seductive and exciting!
Relatively unknown throughout the English-speaking world, Colombian novelist Laura Restrepo has been widely acclaimed nearly everywhere else. Already the recipient of a number of international literary awards, Restrepo won the prestigious Alfaguara Prize in 2004 for Delirium. Praised by such luminaries as JosÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â© Saramago, Gabriel GarcÃƒÆ’Ã‚Âa MÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¡rquez, and Harold Bloom, Delirium is an enthralling and inconceivably harrowing story, the likes of which bear no comparison to any novel in recent memory. Narrated from the first-person perspective of four different characters, Delirium delves into the varied subjectivities of a mind fraught with madness, and the diffusive effects on those nearby. Like much of Latin American literature, the chronicle is as much about the individual as it is the culture from which they are spawned. Lingering in its effect, Delirium's captivating tale is a weighty one not easily forgotten.
Synopses & Reviews
Internationally acclaimed for the virtuosity and power of her fiction, Laura Restrepo has created in Delirium a passionate, lyrical, devastating tale of eros and insanity.
Aguilar, an unemployed literature professor who has resorted to selling dog food for a living, returns home from a short trip to discover that his wife, Agustina, has gone mad. He doesnt know what has happened during his absence, and in his search for answers, he gradually unearths profound and shadowy secrets about her past.
On one level, Delirium reads like a detective story, as the reader pieces together information to discover the roots of Agustinas madness. But it is also a remarkably nuanced novel whose currents run much deeper, delving into the minds of four characters: Aguilar, a husband passionately in love with his wife and determined to rescue her from insanity: Agustina, a beautiful woman from an upper-class Colombian family who is caught in the throes of madness; Midas, a drug-trafficker and money-launderer, who is Agustinas former lover; and Nicolás, Agustinas grandfather. Through the mixing of these distinct voices, Laura Restrepo creates a searing portrait of a society battered by war and corruption as well as an intimate look at the daily lives of people struggling to stay sane in an unstable country.
Delirium already has been awarded the 2004 Premio Alfaguara, the 2006 Grinzane Cavour Prize in Italy, and was shortlisted for the prestigious Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger in France for best translated fiction. It is an ambitious and deeply affecting masterwork by one of Latin Americas most important contemporary voices.
Translated from the Spanish by Natasha Wimmer.
"Colombian novelist Laura Restrepo's 'Delirium' is a book-and-a-half: stunning, dense, complex, mind-blowing. It tackles the question of how we live in an insane world, a world where everything on Earth is a metaphor for everything else; where crime, vice, virtue, sex, lies and truth exist in a series of baffling symbiotic relationships; where utterly batty human beings appear as perfectly sane, where... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) the sane among us end up appearing perfectly bats. Nothing is what it seems in 'Delirium.' It's appalling! Behind each falsehood another falsehood lies. But the people within this world have no choice but to live the best way they can — with inventiveness, imagination and as much integrity as the circumstances allow. The setting of this story is Bogota, Colombia, and a few of its shimmering outskirts: 'The whole country itself is ghostly, and if it wasn't for the bombs and the bursts of machine-gun fire that echo in the distance, the tremors reaching me here,' one drug lord in hiding muses, 'I'd swear that the place called Colombia had stopped existing long ago.' But this drug lord, Midas McAlister, was once a wistful high school kid, a poor boy from the provinces who longed to be in with the in crowd. He knew early on that all the money in the world would never put him on a par with the real Colombian aristocracy — families with dusty volumes in French piling up in their libraries, whose dogs were treated better than most humans in the country, where the same exquisite christening gown was worn by new babies over four generations. The aristocratic family that Midas idolizes and most aspires to emulate, if only in outward appearance, is the Londonos. There are three Londono offspring, all about Midas' age: Joaco, a bully who beats Midas up and is badly beaten in return; Agustina, an exquisitely lovely middle child who has never been quite right in the head; and Bichi, the beautiful youngest son, whom his father despises and torments. That father — remote, aloof, all-powerful — is married to Eugenia, also cold and aloof. Eugenia's sister Sofi, earthy and lovely in her own right, lives with them all. The family lives largely and with careless panache in three different homes 90 minutes apart: one in the 'cold country,' one in warmer climes and one in a suburb of Bogota. Midas realizes that he will never be accepted by these people (although throughout the story he tries his hardest), but he also sees that he has what they have lost — the ability to make money. His other set of friends are low-life, drug-dealing thugs, the middle-management of the Colombian smuggling industry, all of them working for a never-seen monster of a man who is also a world-class grudge holder, Pablo Escobar. The elegant, sinuous plot begins with a crazy bet. One of these drug dealers, an obese wack-job named Spider, has been thrown from a horse while utterly stoned and rendered a paraplegic. Midas bets that he can provide Spider with an erection. It's a stupid bet, but Midas is allowed three tries. The first, involving a couple of preppy looking girls, is a dead-on failure. Meanwhile, somewhere in the present time — they're all grown up by now — Agustina, that beautiful middle Londono child, who's now married to Senor Aguilar, an unemployed professor of literature, turns up abandoned and alone in a hotel, stark staring mad. Agustina's Aunt Sofi comes to stay with Aguilar to help care for her. What could have happened? By now the reader knows that a woman involved in Midas' second try with Spider has come to a gruesome end. It's hard not to jump to the conclusion that Agustina has been subjected to something unspeakable. But nothing in 'Delirium' is what it seems. This novel is as much about family as corrupt government or (dis)organized crime. What if some of us are simply bone-crazy to begin with? The author allows us a series of unsettling flashbacks to the parents of the aloof Eugenia and earthy Sofi, and a grandfather who was most comfortable reciting the rivers of Germany in alphabetical order. Could Agustina's insanity be a simple question of heredity? Put more plainly, do all of us carry a series of unseen, often unnoticed neural firecrackers in the brain, set to go off randomly when we least expect them? Think of William Styron's 'Lie Down in Darkness' or Ken Kesey's 'Sometimes a Great Notion.' Since Adam and Eve, families — microcosms of countries — have cherished their blood feuds, their grudges, their clandestine rage. Sex, money, greed, lies, betrayals — almost every family crawls with clammy secrets. We know that the father of the Londono clan has encouraged his older son's bullying and arrogance, that he has persecuted his younger son's effeminate behavior because he abhors Bichi's possible homosexuality — or perhaps sexuality of any kind. We also know that young Agustina and Bichi have discovered a terrible Londono secret. Meanwhile, Agustina raves. Her husband anguishes. Aunt Sofi helps out. A woman dies a gruesome death. Bombs drop in the city. Bogota is rotting from within. But out in the countryside, the insurgents and the government have come to a working agreement about checkpoints. One side takes the day shift, the other works nights. Restrepo is obviously a remarkable woman. An interview of her by the estimable writer and poet Jaime Manrique in Bomb magazine is enormously helpful in understanding her mind-set. She's politically active, hot as a pistol. But this novel goes far above politics, right up into high art." Reviewed by Charles Kaiser, author of 'The Gay Metropolis,' which will be published in an updated edition this summerElinor Lipman, whose most recent novel is 'My Latest Grievance'Patrick Anderson, whose e-mail address is email@example.com, is the author of 'The Triumph of the Thriller'Carolyn See, who can be reached at carolynsee.com, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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RAguilar, a former literature professor who now Tdelivers dog food in order to survive, U returns from a trip to find his beloved wife, Agustina, has Ttransformed into someone terrified and terrifyingU; his subsequent investigation into what happened forms the plot of this complex and captivating novel . . . R--"Publishers Weekly."
About the Author
Laura Restrepo is the bestselling author of several prize-winning novels published in over twenty languages, including Leopard in the Sun, which won the Arzobispo San Clemente Prize, and The Angel of Galilea, which won the Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz Prize in Mexico and the Prix France Culture in France. She was also awarded the 2004 Alfaguara Prize and the 2006 Grinzane Cavour Prize in Italy for Delirium. A recent recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, Restrepo lives in Mexico City.
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