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Sergio Gutiérrez Negrón (Caguas, 1986) is a novelist and columnist. He is the author of two novels, Palacio (2011/2014), finalist of the PEN Club prize in the year of publication, and Dicen que dormidos (2014/2015). This second work won the National Novel Prize of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture. In 2015, he was recognized by the Festival de la Palabra with the New Voices Prize, a prize given to young Puerto Rican authors. That same year he was part of Latinoamérica Viva, a selection of Latin American authors curated by the Guadalajara International Book Fair. He collaborates monthly with the column Buscapié of El Nuevo Día. His stories and academic articles have appeared in several magazines and anthologies, both local and international. In 2017, he was selected by the Hay Festival as part of Bogotá39. Gutiérrez Negrón currently teaches Latin American Literature in Oberlin, Ohio, USA.

Sergio Gutiérrez Negrón - Los días hábilesLos días hábiles (The Working Days)
In her thirties, Carla María is a single mother who lives a markedly monastic life. One morning, after a sudden, though expected, anxiety attack, she remembers how, eleven years earlier, she lived a day when she thought she had dominated her ever-present anxiety. That day, her last in an ice cream parlour where she worked, Carla María conspired with her co-workers to, once their shift was over, rob the store, take all the money, and flee in the direction of the Puerto Rican mountains. In her memory, she and two of her companions (Carlos and María C) are in full flight and in a moment of deep fellowship. Amidst routine interruptions, Carla María remembers another moment of the night in question, when fleeing from the store money in hand, another employee of the ice cream shop, a second Carlos, decided not to join them, despite having committed to the plot from the beginning. The remembrance of this abandonment, catalysed by the possibility of a re-encounter with one of the Carlos, whom she has not seen since, causes the previous idyllic image to begin to crack and for a third-person narration of the last twelve hours in the ice cream shop to begin.

Los días hábiles is a coming of age novel with an existentialist nuance, narrated in the third person. It is also as much a reflection on the nature of part-time work as well as a story of how the fantasies of some youngsters collide against the harsh reality of the Puerto Rican economic crisis, a crisis that has marked the past decade and a half. The tone of the novel alternates the determinism of social realism, humour and imagination. This is facilitated by a linguistic style that internalizes many of the idiosyncrasies of Puerto Rican Spanish and makes incursions into the English language. In a way, the work is close to “realist” trends in the American novel (John Cheever, John Updike, Richard Yates, Jeffrey Eugenides), although echoes can be also heard of the ennui typical of the novels of Haruki Murakami and Roberto Bolaño.

240 pages – Original language: Spanish (Planeta Mexico, 2020)

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