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The Matter of Desireby Edmundo Paz Soldan
Synopses & Reviews
Edmundo Paz Soldán, a young Bolivian-born, American-based, award-winning novelist, has become a leading spokesperson for the McOndo literary movement. Recently featured in major articles in the New York Times, Newsweek, and Críticas, these writers stand in opposition to the rural-flavored magic realism of such writers as Gabriel García Márquez; instead they embrace an urban vision that incorporates the pervasive influence of American pop culture in today's Latin America. Paz Soldán's exemplary novel The Matter of Desire shows off his mastery of popular literary forms and brilliantly elucidates the complex relationship between Latin America and the United States.
The Matter of Desire is the story of Pedro, a Bolivian-American political scientist who teaches at an upstate New York university. Having become entangled in an erotically charged romance with Ashley, a beautiful red-headed graduate student, he returns to Bolivia to seek answers to his own life by investigating the mystery of his father's past. Trapped between two cultures, Pedro ultimately finds himself in an existential dilemma of tragic dimensions. The Matter of Desire combines elements of the political thriller and the family mystery with a torrid illicit love affair; its publication in the United States will generate attention, critical accolades, and a wide readership.
"South American politics meet Northeast academia in this uneven but affecting novel about untangling a family past. Pedro Zabalaga is — like the author himself — a Bolivia-born professor of Latin American Studies at an upstate New York university. Trapped in an affair with a flirtatious graduate student named Ashley, he flees back home to Ro Fugitivo, the fictitious Bolivian city that plays a recurring role in Paz Soldán's work. There, Pedro involves himself in something much more complicated than his affair — an attempt to unravel the romantic, intellectual and political betrayal that led to the death of his father, a famous revolutionary and novelist. With the help of his Uncle David, who was present at his father's death, Pedro reexamines his father's famous novel, Berkeley, a postmodern tour-de-force littered with secret messages. He also interviews Jaime Villa, his father's childhood friend, now a drug lord awaiting extradition. Paz gets mixed results from his weaving of two separate storylines. The affair between Pedro and Ashley, despite its heat, is a standard tale of star-crossed lovers. Less familiar, and more engaging, is the throbbing world of Ro Fugitivo, flooded with American culture but still haunted by years of oppression. Paz Soldán is perhaps Bolivia's most notable contemporary author, a winner of his country's National Book Award and the Juan Rulfo Prize, given to the best short story written in Spanish. This is the first of his six novels to be translated into English, and it provides an accessible introduction to his work. Carter's translation is smooth, though her tactic of only partly translating dialogue (a faithful effort to reproduce Paz Soldán's own bilingual leaps) can be distracting. Agent, Carol Mann. (Apr.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[A] bristling alternative to the magical realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Blending history, existentialism, and romantic and political passion, it offers an edgy, urban vision that sizzles from the start." Allison Block, Booklist
"[I]nsightful and provocative..." James Polk, The Washington Post Book World
"Bolivian author Paz Soldán...evokes a gritty urban milieu permeated by pop culture and technology....Pedro, like all overly cerebral protagonists, thinks more than he acts, and when he does act, he often gets it wrong. In all: more craft than art." Kirkus Reviews
"Especially insightful about the inexorable suffusion southwards of American pop culture and values, this novel is recommended for all collections." Library Journal
Paz Soldán — leading spokesperson for the McOndo literary movement, which embraces an urban vision of American pop culture in today's Latin America — combines elements of political thriller and family mystery with a torrid illicit love affair.
The Matter of Desire is the story of Pedro, a Bolivian-American political scientist who teaches at a university in upstate New York. Having become entangled in an erotically charged romance with Ashley, a beautiful red-headed graduate student, he returns to Bolivia to seek answers to his own life by investigating the mysteries of his father's past. Trapped between two cultures, Pedro ultimately finds himself in an existential dilemma of tragic dimensions. The Matter of Desire combines elements of the political thriller and the family mystery with a torrid illicit love affair and brilliantly elucidates the complex relationship between Latin America and the United States.
About the Author
Edmundo Paz Soldán is the author of six novels and two short story collections. He has won the National Book Award in Bolivia, the prestigious Juan Rulfo Award, and was a finalist for the Romulo Gállegos Award. He is an assistant professor at Cornell University. One of the few McOndo writers who live in the United States, he is frequently called upon as the movement's spokesperson by the American media. The Matter of Desire is his first work to be translated into English.
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