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La Mediana Edad (Middle Age)
Pablo Casacuberta introduces us to the labyrinthine mind of Tobias: a fifty-year-old who lives with his mother and suffers from hypochondria. This double condition of always feeling sick and living isolated with his mother, plus the void left by an absent father -the circumstances of whose death are revealed to us and to our hero only by the end- has led him to develop an extreme dependence on his family doctor: a homeopath with a vast clientele of mostly old ladies, who completely disbelieves the efficacy of his own preparations.
Developing over the course of just one -very long- day, where the story zig-zags between a series of grotesque episodes in the life of Tobias and the multiple thought associations of his mind, until a surprise moment unleashes an unexpected turn of events and the novel acquires another rhythm. A philosophical novel and an atypical Bildungsroman, where with linguistic virtuosity and a great sense of humour, Casacuberta confronts the eternal tensions between the world of ideas and beliefs with that of factual truth and scientific thought.
266 pages – Original language: Spanish (Estuario Editora, 2019); Rights Sold: French (Métailié, 2019); AUDIO/Spanish (Storytel, 2020)
Lazarus works in a museum. He photographs desiccated insects, which he then carefully places in prepared scenarios simulating certain vitality. The train on which he is travelling with destination unknown, enters an absolutely black tunnel. Why does the train stop? And who is the mysterious woman that appears to Lazarus in a lens store?
Everything is guarded, everything is closed in Lazarus’ world. A man capable of putting all his hopes in an image, a projection of his own mind, as if it were possible for one’s own interior darkness to be the force to show the way towards the light.
“With El Mar (The Sea) Pablo Casacuberta continues opening the doors of perception, shaping the invisible through an almost magical use of language” – Mario Levrero.
“Direct, visual language, tremendously persuasive, connects the initial realism of the plot with a specific area of the fantastic, and then moves on to a symbolic level, thus multiplying possible readings” – Mercedes Estramil.
168 pages – Original language: Spanish (Estuario Editorial, Montevideo, 2000 and 2015); Rights Sold: French (Métailé)
The protagonist of this novel by Pablo Casacuberta is not Scipio – the Roman general hero of the Carthage campaign and conqueror of Hannibal in 202 BC – but that ancient history is not entirely absent from its plot. Aníbal Brener, the son of a prestigious historian, a specialist on the History of the Roman Empire, has always had a troubled relationship with his father. An historian like him, Aníbal has gone from failure to failure until finally he is outdone by alcohol and abandon. Two years after the death of his father – whose funeral he missed – he receives the news that the will leaves him with much of his father’s property, provided that certain conditions are met. Narrated by Aníbal, the novel is a gripping investigation of the tensions present in a father-son relationship where love and hate, authoritarianism and humiliation, envy and cruelty co-exist.
As in Casacuberta’s previous novel (Aquí y ahora), this is a coming of age novel, even though its narrator is an adult, one who has refused, or has not managed, to grow up. His story is a tale of discovery and of healing: the discovery of the father’s fragility and of his own identity, one that can only be defined as a reflection of the relation with the father.
Escipión shows us an author at his full creative maturity. One that comfortably tackles a universal theme of strong classic resonances with irony and a kind of humour that elevates his discerning ability.
304 pages – Original language: Spanish (Editorial Trilce, Montevideo, 2010); Rights Sold: French (Métailié), Croatian (Bozicevic), Spanish (451 Editores), AUDIO/Spanish (Storytel, 2020)
Aquí y ahora
A top class employee for a world-class hotel. The Samarcanda hotel recruits a new stable man. Máximo, seventeen years, three-hair beard, determined to get out of childhood, puts himself forward. A lonely teenager, obsessive, fond of scientific journals and fascinated by thought processes, he is convinced that this experience will be his real entry into the adult world.
As it often happens however, nothing is in line with expectations, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. The more our hero grows, the more the mysterious and exciting world around him shrinks. The only way to cope will be to live in it here and now!
Pablo Casacuberta depicts with touching insight the loneliness of adolescence, the suffocating desire for love, the terror of never being taken seriously. This short breath-taking novel, splendidly written, is one of the best things we have ever read on the delicate art of growing.
“Pablo Casacuberta at the top of its narrative maturity: spare style, simplicity of story, edgy emotion. The
good reader will retain this brief novel as a happy personal experience.” – Mario Levrero
180 pages – Original language: Spanish (Aurora Editorial, Montevideo, 2002); Rights Sold: French (Métailié), Spanish (Ediciones Era, Mexico)
Black Hole (Qué ganas de no verte nunca más)
Mercedes Rosende weaves a new chapter in the vertiginous and captivating world of Ursula, the lonely translator with weight problems whose crimes are a way of asserting a new self and leaving behind a past of abuse.
As always, the river of the main story unfolds into multiple tributaries in the middle of a rainy, dusty and cold Montevideo. Intrigues, deaths, robberies, corruption, blackmail, surprising sexual encounters surround the protagonist and give life to a city that operates in a darkness peppered with continuous flashes of irony.
In what is an intricate interlocking plot, a confident and omniscient narrator plays with literary devices. In turn taking us via a present tense narrative in the mind of the characters, addressing the reader directly, incorporating different narrative registers, describing scenes in the style of a movie script, or focussing on technical descriptions. Rosende delivers a story of psychological depth and literary quality
“Mercedes Rosende brings the tradition of the noir plot to the streets of Montevideo, and comes out triumphant.” – La diaria, December 2019
“Ursula is a villain like few others who generates in the reader the desire that everything be well for her.” – Montevideo Portal
320 pages – Original language: Spanish for Uruguay/Argentina/Chile (PLANETA Uruguay, 2019); Rights Sold: German (Unionsverlag, 2021), AUDIO/Spanish (Storytel, 2020)
El miserere de los cocodrilos (Crocodile Tears)
The Miserere of the Crocodiles takes us into the world of violent criminals and high level corruption of a cold, grey and dirty Montevideo. Germán, an eternal reoffender accused of a kidnapping, comes out of jail thanks to the manoeuvrings of a newly appointed, shady lawyer. There is a condition to his release however: he will need to help assaulting an armoured truck stuffed full of cash. The crime is planned, an investigation is developed by a somewhat self-doubting detective, various levels of corruption are observed while a number of only apparently secondary characters take centre stage. In particular, the splendid and vengeful Úrsula, a strong anti-heroine -representing a subversion of dominant feminine aesthetics- determined to overcome any challenge, inside or outside the law.
In what is an intricate interlocking plot, a confident and omniscient narrator plays with literary devices. In turn taking us via a present tense narrative in the mind of the characters, addressing the reader directly, incorporating different narrative registers, describing scenes in the style of a movie script, being generous with technical details. Sprinkling local flavour and firmly implanting the plot in the noir tradition, Rosende delivers nonetheless a story of psychological depth and literary quality. The author is working on a sequel.
228 pages – Original language: Spanish (Estuario Editora, Montevideo, 2016); Rights Sold: World English (Bitter Lemon Press, 2020), Spanish/Audio (Storytel, 2020), German (Unionsverlag, 2018)
Ursula is dissatisfied. Too ugly, too hungry, too alone – her life is not going the way she would like it to be. The sister is prettier, the neighbor happier, and who can go on an eternal vegetable soup diet? The noir plot sets off one night when Ursula receives a call from someone informing her that her husband has been kidnapped. What husband?, she thinks when she hangs up. She is not the right Ursula Lopez the clumsy kidnapper needed to reach. Being curious, she decides to meet the kidnapper, an inept and naive negotiator. Ursula is the least indicated woman he could cross paths with. And so, the kidnappers’ plan suffers with ridiculous consequences while her relationship with German (the kidnapper) will move from empathy to a silent seduction leaving in evidence the complex personality of the leading character. Ursula, the novel’s splendid anti-heroine, represents a subversion of dominant feminine aesthetics- determined to overcome any challenge, inside or outside the law, revulsive, contradictory and ungraspable. She discovers her criminal talent, which leads her on an absurdly wonderful adventure
Rosende reveals her capacity to create atmospheres via a wide register of sensations and emotions, mixing a noir plot with the loneliness of an overweight, unmarried (read wrong) woman, incompetent criminals and a Montevideo that is so dirty it smells bad.
192 pages – Original language: Spanish (Estuario Editora, Montevideo, 2017); Rights Sold: German (Unionsverlag, 2020), Spanish/Audio (Storytel, 2020).
Historias de mujeres feas es una excelente selección de cuentos de Mercedes Rosende. La autora, con la versatilidad que la caracteriza en toda su literatura, en este caso se regodea en caminar por lo abominable, por la cornisa del desborde de lo humano. Son historias donde hay un pacto con la ficción, donde los mundos, en su mayoría surrealistas, recrean realidades cotidianas, por momentos duras, herméticas o inverosímiles, pero respetan, de modo inquebrantable, los requisitos del difícil arte de contar.
“Con su ironía y su humor negro, su visión desencantada de las relaciones sociales, sus comentarios amargos sobre la vulgaridad nacional, Rosende aligera el tono naturalmente lúgubre del policial, pero cuando se pone a describir a rateros y marginales, emerge una _na observadora de lo peor del comportamiento humano, con sus frustraciones, rencores, aromas intensos y desenfrenada violencia. En esa yuxtaposición, sus historias superan los moldes genéricos que las ayudan a existir y se vuelven aparatos complejos de mirar el mundo.” – Francisco Álvez Francese, La Diaria
“¿Quiénes somos las mujeres feas? ¿Las que no nacimos con un físico agraciado, las que no tenemos determinada actitud, las que no alcanzamos el estándar satinado de las tapas de revista? No hay una manera única de definirnos, porque hay mil versiones de la fealdad. Hubo un tiempo en el que se señalaba a las gordas o a las viejas, incluso a las más pobres, pero la fealdad fue cambiando y se extendió a todas las que no somos modelos, actrices, al 99,99 %, que no somos hermosas de esa manera que nos imponen. Y ya no es necesario tener una edad o un peso o una condición social para ser fea. Las mujeres caímos en la cuenta de que, si nos quedamos con los preconceptos, si aceptamos los cánones poco realistas de belleza, todas somos y seremos feas. Y un día las feas, o sea, todas nosotras, nos cansamos de ser solo eso, tomamos las calles y fuimos contra la corriente, las soñadoras y las deprimidas, las aventureras y las ambiciosas, las enamoradas y las desenamoradas, las criminales y las ladronas, y reclamamos nuestro derecho a ser las protagonistas de todos estos relatos.” – Mercedes Rosende
184 pages – Original language: Spanish for Uruguay/Argentina/Chile (PLANETA Uruguay, 2020).
Comanse la ropa! (Eat Your Clothes!)
Peruvian Coast, 1823. In the middle of the war of independence against Spain, a troop of shipwrecked patriots must face survival in hostile conditions, and on the brink of hunger and delirium. Among them is colonel Carlos Federico de Brandsen, an outstanding French cavalry officer who after the defeat of Waterloo accepts to travel to the New World to fight for the independence of the young American republics. He crosses the Andes and fights in Chile and then in Peru. Defeats and failures however eat into the spirit of loyalty to the cause, with the group facing marches through inhospitable landscapes, ghost towns and inclement snowfalls, plus an enemy army stalking them. The harsh experiences turn hallucinatory, fate leaves many on the verge of death, hunger alters the soldiers’ senses (they eat their own clothes) and survival is not always based on moral precepts. Brandsen’s health also deteriorates, he has visions and confuses the wars in which he has fought, so beginning his descent into madness.
Reflections on the meaning of loyalty – represented by men walking to their death unfazed by the extreme forces of nature- and of responsibility towards history are interspersed with more overtly political aspects – an indigenous population, deeply Catholic, fighting almost always in favour of the Spanish. Alongside the human protagonist however, the all-pervading character of the novel is landscape: the exalted nature of the Andes, the great marches through the desert, the mountain range, the moors, the small towns lost among the mountains and the lakes. Nature is all pervasive and affects all actions of men.
WINNER of the JUAN CARLOS ONETTI LITERARY AWARD
SELECTED FOR BOGOTÁ 39 – BEST LATIN AMERICAN AUTHORS UNDER 40
231 pages – Rights Sold: Spanish/Bolivia, Peru, Chile (El cuervo, 2020); Original language: Spanish (Intendencia de Montevideo, 2017)