When you live in the English-speaking world, discovering a wonderful local writer must be a cool experience, as you can immediately go online and write about it knowing what most people will be able to read his work if they are so inclined.
In my case, it’s a bit of a bittersweet experience. You see, the local writers I usually discover tend to be untranslated into English, no matte how wonderful their work is… which means that I can really only make most of my writerly friends aware of their existence, but I can’t share it.
Almost a year and a half ago, as I was leaving the monthly gathering of Buenos Aires-based SFF writers (all but me Spanish-language writers), one of the writers followed me out the door and gifted me one of his books (a particularly touching gesture as most of the Argentines are also investors who have to sell books to make the projects worth their while).
The book went into my TBR pile and has now cycled through.
Más sería vicio (note that the title has caps only on the first letter, as that is the way it’s done in Spanish) by Saurio was a book that I literally had no idea about. I’d never read anything by Saurio, and I hadn’t even heard of him until that same day he gave me the book.
So it was with a bit of trepidation that I waded into this one, only to find that it’s one of those treats that you just don’t get in the English-Language world. Essentially, it’s the voice of Argentina’s neighborhoods–not the literary elite, but the real, gritty people of an earlier age–expressed in a series of short stories that straddle the border between straight fantasy and magical realism. Unlike most Argentine literature (and especially local film), which, at the drop of a hat, descend into a tango-like rending of the garments about the military dictatorship, or poverty or… or about just anything… this book is funny and irreverent as opposed to ponderous.
Yes, it’s dark. But it’s dark in a take-no-prisoners, laugh-at-everything way with a proletarian voice you couldn’t mistake for anything but Argentine, and an utter disregard for social niceties.
Having said that, it must also be noted that Saurio follows the Shakespearian (or possibly Cervantine, in this case) tradition of keeping the masses (me…) entertained with his obscene references and painfully silly characters while, at the same time making references to everyone from Lovecraft to alternative (very alternative) rock group The Residents. You have to be on your toes to catch all the intertextualities.
There are lots of these, and the author, when he actually remembers them, explains them in footnotes.
All in all, fun and cultural interest in a literary package that, for a couple of days, made me happy. Recommended to anyone who reads Spanish.
Gustavo Bondoni is an Argentine writer whose most recent collection of short stories–Off the Beaten Path–doesn’t straddle any boundaries. They’re either fantasy or science fiction… though some seem to be one and are really the other. You can have a look at it here.