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The Sixty-Five Years of Washingtonby Juan Jose Saer
Synopses & Reviews
This entire novel consists of a discussion between two friends—one who just returned from Europe, the other a young accountant—about a grand birthday party neither one was able to attend. This doesn't stop them from swapping stories and hypotheses, which balloon into a riveting depiction of the complexities of life, especially at the dawn of Argentina's Dirty War.
"Argentinian Saer (1937 — 2005) sets his novel during a walk through the streets of a seaside Argentinian city in the early '60s with a conversation comprising memories, images, and digressions in the mode of Proust and Laurence Sterne. Two characters meet in the street and walk together while discussing Washington Noriega's 65th birthday party, which neither of them attended. The elegant aristocratic Mathematician missed the soiree because he was in Europe; the plebeian Angel Leto wasn't invited. The two men veer off topic to consider the behavior of mosquitoes and whether a horse can stumble, frivolous subjects that contrast with visions of Argentina's harsh political turmoil that would occur in the near future when the mathematician's wife will be killed and Leto will disappear, suicide pill in hand. Saer reaches deep into the psychology of his characters, yet for all his skill, the streams of consciousness become arduous as does identifyingÂ with the characters on an emotional level. Think Berman film, difficult but worth the effort. (Nov.) Five-time Pushcart-winner Burgin (Ghost Quartet) straddles the psychological thriller and modern literary genres with mixed results. Nearing the end of his university teaching contract, Elliot Martin renews ties with Barry Auer, his independently wealthy childhood friend. Six years before, Elliot and Barry fell out over the literary magazine they'd tried to create, using Barry's money. Now, they decide to revive their grand project, and Elliot moves into Barry's spacious New York apartment. Elliot soon falls in love with Cheri, a pretty, blond painter. That Barry becomes enamored with Cheri is a minor problem; a far worse problem is Barry's dark alter ego, the homicidal sex deviant 'Gordon Green.' When one of his victims survives and attempts to expose him, Barry/Gordon's behavior grows increasingly erratic, causing Elliot and Cheri, still unaware of his hidden life, to worry. And when Elliot announces his intention to marry Cheri, Barry goes off the deep end, putting Cheri in grave danger. While the stuffy, pretentious milieu of the Big Apple's art circles is satirized to scathing effect, long stretches of flat dialogue encumber much of the suspense that Burgin works so hard to build. (Nov.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
Saers The Sixty-Five Years of Washington is simultaneously a brilliant comedy about memory, narrative, time, and death and a moving narrative about the lost generations of an Argentina that was perpetually on the verge of collapse.
Two friends muse and hypothesize about the grand birthday they missed in the years before Argentina's Dirty War.
About the Author
Juan José Saer was the leading Argentinian writer of the post-Borges generation. The author of numerous novels and short-story collections (including Scars and La Grande), Saer was awarded Spains prestigious Nadal Prize in 1987 for The Event.
Steve Dolph is the founder of Calque, a journal of literature in translation. His translation of Juan José Saer's Scars was a finalist for the 2012 Best Translated Book Award.
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