Travel kaleidoscope

A blurb from Julio Cortazar on the front cover of The Ship of Fools (first published in Spanish in 1984 as La nave de los locos), by exiled Urugyan Christina Peri Rossi (1941-) asserted that “He great gift is the ability to projecton on the high plains of imagination the historical present in all its tragic reality.” There is nothing identifiable to me as the present (ca. 1984). The book is largely unmoored in time and space (many of the locations are referred to only by an initial). I also don’t see how it is a novel, even a lumpy one with lots stuffed into it. There are some characters who recur.

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If I didn’t know, I’d have guessed that the novel was written by a man. The perspective is mostly male, as is the writing about women. (Also the answer to the riddle “What is the greatest thing a man can give to a woman?”). I can conceive of a man deciding to embrace his impotence.

Most of the book vignettes are set on terra firma, though I like the first of Eck’s (X’s? Equis’) journeys, on an ocean liner and another poignane one about a ship filled with crazy people that is left by its crew adrift. And I like the preternaturally wise nine-year-old Percival who enchants Morris later (I don’t see any erotic/pedophilic in the account).

The journeys alternate with descriptions of panels of the medieval (11th or 12th-century) Tapestry of Creation (from which half of the outside panels are missing) in the Girona Cathedral. That approaches ecstasy, while most of the novel is melancholic (which does not bar some comic moments and observations). Early on, Ecks tells a woman “I was not born a foreigner. It is a condition one acquires through force of circumstances.” Nowadays, it seems that many people ARE born foreigners, including those born in the US of foreign-born parents and the

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[a boat, not a ship, vverdad?]

I’m not sure what it all adds up to, but found enough there there to read it through (the syntax is not convoluted in the manner of much “Boom” fiction from writers born in South America).

 

Since the Readers Inernational edition of her second novel that has been sitting in a to-read bookcase since they sent it to me in 1989, Peri Rossi, who has long lived in Barcelona, has published many other books, some of which have been translates into English, btw.

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