Idioma original: espaƱol

Year of publication: 2023

Valuation: Alright

I bought October pushed by a certain hype in relation to its author, Elisa Victoria, especially from her first novelVozdeviejawhich we also reviewed here with great praise. Also out of sympathy for its publisher, Blackie Books, which has published some of the most self-confident works and authors of recent years, such as Juarma or Elisa Victoria herself. In short, I had very high expectations, and perhaps for that reason, the novel has left me rather cold, despite recognizing in it glimpses of a very good writer.

October focuses on a character, who will also be the narrator at times and who is also, it is understood, the “implicit author” of the entire work we are reading: Renata, a young scientist with a certain disorder that causes her personality to split into two at certain times: the self that acts (the “autopilot”), and the self that thinks, evaluates and criticizes what that other self is doing. When this psychic dissonance causes a kind of “mental/temporal pause” in the protagonist’s life, we jump to another plane, one set during the protagonist’s adolescence, in the town of Otaberra, in 1989, when something happened that (as the back cover of the book announces, slightly spoileadora) is at the origin of the protagonist’s trauma. We thus meet another key character in this story, Eusebio, a sensitive, creative, different boy, probably homosexual or bisexual, who therefore suffers rejection and bullying from the rest of the young people in the town. A deep complicity arises between Renata and Eusebio, a friendship that could perhaps be something more than friendship, which is cut short by that traumatic event that I was talking about earlier, and which could be the origin of Renata’s psychic split.

Summarizing the plot like this, it might seem that we are faced with a novel that is not linear (because it is based on a great flashback), yes, quite conventional, and also quite “psychoanalytical”: a central character searches in his past for the essential trauma that explains his current psychological symptoms. What happens is that, perhaps precisely because of the fear of being too much In a conventional way, Elisa Victoria superimposes on this basic plot a whole set of different narrative levels and techniques: she “invents” two other narrators, a cousin of Renata and her friend, who comment on and encourage the protagonist’s retrospective and introspective work; she includes fragments from Eusebio’s diary, in which some moments of Renata’s life are paradoxically reconstructed; she reconstructs an alternative past in which Eusebio and Renata effectively become a perfect and cloying couple… The thing is that, personally, I don’t think that all these narrative artifices add much to the main plot, they don’t seem to have a clear justification beyond a certain formal virtuosity, and rather than enriching the novel, they make it more dispersed.

And in a way it is a shame, because if we consider many of the novel’s fragments as almost independent narratives, we see an author with a firm narrative pulse and a remarkable ability to construct situations and characters, and in fact the first chapters of the novel, before the games of masks begin, establish an approach that hooks and interests. In other words, perhaps if Elisa Victoria had trusted in the power of the simple story and her ability to tell it, we would have a less groundbreaking, but more coherent novel. (I know, of course, that if she had done so, right now some critics, among whom I might be one, could accuse her of writing a novel that is too traditional, but I think that in this case it would have been worth the paradoxical risk of not taking risks.)

In summary: although it may seem strange, October It leaves me with a better impression of its author than of the work itself. I can perfectly see Elisa Victoria writing a great novel (or perhaps she has already written one, because I have not yet read it). Vozdevieja), if he or she manages to better combine his or her narrative ability with the most appropriate narrative techniques (conventional or not) to tell the story. Octoberunfortunately, does not become that great novel.


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