by De Toro, Suso
One of the most exciting works of literature to have come out of Galicia in the last thirty years, and the first adult-fiction title by Suso de Toro to be made available in the English-language market. There is something startling about this book. With Raymond Carver-like simplicity, the author extracts the commonplace events and ordinary frustrations of life, shedding light on them, exalting them and undermining them at the same time, so that the reader is left in a hiatus, expectant and fulfilled. What goes on here is impossible, outrageous, and yet it happens. A blind man beats and is poisoned by his wife, an aged housemaid tries to breastfeed the baby when the parents are out, a second-hand typewriter insists on typing out its own message, a rapist awaits the family’s vengeance while wishing he knew the victim’s name, a cash machine flirts with a customer of the bank by making spurious deposits into her account, a jumper turns murderous, a porn model seeks an intimate relationship that isn’t confined to the glossy pages of a magazine, a mother loses track of her child, Cain and Abel appear in modern dress, the hero Theseus is driven to question whether he really is a hero or not, a man finds his wife having an affair in the wardrobe… There is something absolutely surprising about these stories that signalled a new direction in post-Franco Galician literature, in a book the author himself described as ‘an outburst of fury inspired by punk’.
Publication Date: 29 June 2015 / Language: English / Paperback: 192 pages / Dimensions: 203 x 133 mm / Price: £8.99 / €11.99 / $14.99
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Man, these books (Tick-Tock and Polaroid) are wild. Supposedly they’re connected (Tick-Tock is referred to as a “sequel” in the jacket copy), although I’m not sure that matters. Both share a particular style and structure, somewhere between a set of interconnected stories and a novel, and there are a few names that resurface in both books, but you could honestly read one without the other and be perfectly fine. Of the two, Tick-Tock definitely has more of a novelistic feel, with each of its five sections opening with a longer piece from Nano about his thoughts on life, history, aging, masturbation, etc., etc. Following those sort of framing pieces comes a series of much shorter anecdotes, mini-stories, musings from a philosopher’s many books (like On Getting Through Life, or Concerto for the Left Hand), little language games (like a section called “Aaah” that’s mostly onomatopoeia), or jokes (like the one about the Englishman, Dutchman, and Galician who argue about who has the biggest head). These are really anarchic books, vacillating wildly from more violent, disturbed pieces (like the one in Polaroid about the blind man who beats his wife with his walking stick until she decides to poison him and his dog) to funny, voice-driven sections […] The Physics of Sorrow by Georgi Gospodinov kept coming to mind as I read these. There’s a loose similarity in the way the books are structured, and there are even a few minotaur stories in Polaroid. So if you like Gospodinov’s novel, you might want to check these out.
This is a collection of short and, I would say, flash fiction, glimpses of ordinary lives and strange historic figures out of context, Cain and Abel in modern days. This is a flash of the underbelly of the Galician world, porn models, criminals and wives poisoning their blind husbands. I loved the jumping in and out of worlds in this collection.