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My Two Worldsby Sergio Chejfec
A meandering and somewhat melancholic work, My Two Worlds is the tale of a nameless author, whom, on the cusp of his 50th birthday, finds himself in Brazil to attend a literary conference. Likely an unsuccessful novelist, the narrator spends his day traversing the city, strolling through the park, and ruminating on whatever crosses his path. My Two Worlds is the first novel(la?) by Argentine author and poet Sergio Chejfec to appear in English translation (despite having written a dozen or so books). Apparently, this book is not quite indicative, stylistically or thematically, of Chejfec's other works, yet it nonetheless provides for an interesting and colorful introduction to his fiction.
Walking is, in part, a kind of superficial archaeology, which I find greatly instructive and somehow moving, because it considers evidence that's humble, irrelevant, even random — the exact opposite of a scientific investigation. It's evidence that, because of its unimportance and its secondary nature, restores a way of inhabiting time: one is an eyewitness to the anonymous, to what history can't classify, and simultaneously witness to what will survive with some difficulty.
There isn't much that happens in the book, but as the narrator wends his way through previously unfamiliar pathways, we are treated to a glimpse of an interior world shaped as much by present encounters as by previous experiences. Chejfec's prose flows with the rhythm and cadence of an afternoon stroll, and is, to further the metaphor, often punctuated with dazzling, if not sometimes disorienting, breaks of illumination that shine through the swaying, verdant scenery. My Two Worlds is a muted, understated work, but ultimately a rewarding one that invites the reader to accompany the narrator on his contemplative and introspective ambulation.
As is evident, the occasion served as an invitation to meditate on the passage of time, on the past and on the future, the unknown and the abandoned, what had been lost and what had been squandered, on consolations and the promises of the future, etc. All of it like that, fairly messy. An invitation I don't believe I wasted.
Enrique Vila-Matas authored the rather laudatory introduction, in which he succinctly offers his praise of both My Two Worlds and Chejfec himself.
Synopses & Reviews
An extraordinary meditation on experience, writing, and space, My Two Worlds is about a writer lost in an unfamiliar Brazilian city, searching for a park. Struggling to match the two-dimensional map with reality, and disturbed by the bad reviews his new book is receiving, he begins to see his thoughts, reflections, and memories mirrored in the landscape and its inhabitants.
"Lean, thoughtful, and keenly observed, the Argentinean Chejfec's first work translated into English packs a great deal of insight into 102 pages. The narrator, an unnamed Argentinean writer, wanders a city in the south of Brazil. He is a great enthusiast of walking, going so far as to claim that it saved him, although from what he's uncertain: 'maybe from the danger of not being myself... because to walk is to enact the illusion of autonomy and above all the myth of authenticity.' Recently, however, the act has become less meaningful — or perhaps less mysterious — to him. He seeks out a park 'too large not to have the air of abandonment which so appeals' to him. He is self-conscious, worried about being ignored, and sure he's being judged; that the judgment of others remains opaque bothers him. Of ultimate concern, finally, is that walking has stopped giving him real insights. The book he's brought with him doesn't interest him nearly as much as boats shaped like swans, the meaning of time, or any number of other observations rendered in fascinating detail. Carson's magnificent translation of Chejfec's latest work should be treated as a significant event. (Aug.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Sebaldian in nature, Chejfec's My Two Worlds is, according to Enrique Vila-Matas, the future of the novel.
About the Author
Sergio Chejfec, originally from Argentina, has published numerous works of fiction, poetry, and essays. Among his grants and prizes, he has received fellowships from the Civitella Ranieri Foundation in 2007 and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation in 2000. He teaches at NYU.
Margaret Carson translates contemporary poetry, fiction, and drama from Latin America. She also teaches in the Modern Languages Department at Borough of Manhattan Community College.
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