Three decades after it was first published, Quim Monzó's Gasoline still offers seductive insight into the lives of artists and the myriad challenges inherent in the creative process. The Catalan author's novel (one of five of his books available in English translation), split into two parts, features two protagonists at very different points in their artistic careers. Heribert, with his best successes behind him, has become bored, aloof, and passionless, while Hubert, ready to usurp more than Heribert's aesthetic achievements, is inspired and inexhaustible — yet, the two of them seem to inevitably end up facing the same dissatisfaction and disappointment.
At times surrealist, revealing, and droll, Gasoline perhaps offers more questions than it provides answers. Is Hubert destined to become Heribert? Is one's success merely the springboard for his successors? Are ego and selfishness ultimately noxious influences on the artist? Does triumph unavoidably lead to torpor? Might true love be unattainable for the aesthete? Rather than clarification, Monzó's story contents itself with portraiture and personification.
With a cast of characters whose names almost uniformly begin with 'h' (Heribert, Hubert, Helena, Hildegarda, Hug, Hipólita, Hilari, Hannah, Hilda, Herundina, Henrietta, Heloise, and Hester), Gasoline is as much commentary on the cyclical trappings of success as it is on the capricious nature of the art world. Monzó's fiction is inventive, arousing, and often facetious, yet also skillfully crafted and uniquely composed. That more of his work (whether novels, short stories, or essays) will be forthcoming in translation, one can only hope. Recommended By Jeremy G., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
Heribert Juliá and Humbert Herrera are opposites: the one can no longer paint, and doesn't much care, the other wants to create the sculpture to end all sculptures, the film of all films, the exhibit of all exhibitions. One couldn't care less about his mistress, the other swoops in. A fun-house mirror through which Monzó examines the creative process.
"A creative block has ramped up the paranoia of artist Heribert Juli and weakened his already tenuous hold on reality. New mistress Hildegarda bores him already, and wife Helena interests him only in her extramarital intrigues. A Hopper painting, the changing numbers on a digital alarm clock, the international stamps in a shop window, almost anything is apt to send Heribert into an extended free-associative riff in the eclectic Monz's (The Enormity of the Tragedy) novel, first published in Spain in 1983. The twisty tale of sublime self-involvement and self-torture is set in Manhattan and covers a year in Heribert's life. There is a plot, albeit loose, as Helena's lover, Humbert, not only supplants Heribert in bed, but seems to eclipse him as an artist; the ultimate, and perhaps unkindest, cut of all is that in the final chapters Humbert takes over as the protagonist of the novel. Monz delivers drollery on nearly every page, in observations that are incisive and hilarious and horrifying, often all at once. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Nothing takes one's steam quicker than being replaced. "Gasoline" is the tale of Heribert, a man grappling with his own artistic block and loss of love for life. Uncaring for his family, for his life, for anything, he watches as another individual by the name of Humbert takes over everything he does, doing it better. A fascinating read of the decline of a great mind and the rise of another, "Gasoline" is a choice and very highly recommended read that shouldn't be missed."The Midwest Book Review
"Gasoline is a gleefully mischievous exploration of the limits of inspiration and the egotism that underlies all art."Adrian Turpin, The Financial Times
For the first time in his life, Heribert Juli is unable to paint. On the eve of an important gallery exhibition, for which hes created nothing, hes bored with life: he falls asleep while making love with his mistress, wanders from bar to bar, drinking whatever comes to his attention first, and meets the evidence of his wife Helenas infidelity with complete indifference. Humbert Herrera, an up-and-coming artist who cant stop creating, picks up the threads of Heriberts life, taking his wife, replacing him at the gallery, and pursuing his former mistress. Heribert is finally undone by a massive sculpture, while Humbert is planning the sculpture to end sculpture, the poem to end poetry, and the film to end film, all while mounting three simultaneous shows. A fun-house mirror through which he examines the creative process, the life and loves of artists, and the New York art scene, Gasoline confirms Quim Monz as the foremost Catalan writer of his generation.
One Monzó's few novels, Gasoline is a fun-house mirror of a book about art, the art world, and creation.
About the Author
Quim Monzó is considered to be the greatest Catalan writer of his generation. He has received numerous awards, including Serra d'Or
magazine's prestigious Critics' Award four times. He has also translated numerous authors into Catalan, including Truman Capote and J. D. Salinger.
Mary Ann Newman is the Director of the Catalan Center at New York University's Center for European and Mediterranean Studies. She is a translator, editor, and occasional writer on Catalan culture.