The TripFiction Book Club January/February 2020 reads ‘A Death in the Medina’ by James von Leyden
A new translation of the Guatemalan author whom Roberto Bolano called “the most rigorous writer of my generation, the most transparent…the most luminous of all.” “Right from the start I picked her for a thief, although that day she didn’t take anything…I knew she’d be back,” the narrator/bookseller of Severina recalls in this novel’s opening pages. Imagine a dark-haired book thief as alluring as she is dangerous. Imagine the mesmerized bookseller secretly tracking the volumes she steals, hoping for insight into her character, her motives, her love life. In Rodrigo Rey Rosa’s hands, this tale of obsessive love is told with almost breathless precision and economy. The bookstore owner is soon entangled in Severina’s mystery: seductive and peripatetic, of uncertain nationality, she steals books to actually read them and to share with her purported grandfather, Senor Blanco. In this unsettling exploration of the alienating and simultaneously liberating power of love, the bookseller’s monotonous existence is rocked by the enigmatic Severina. As in a dream, the disoriented man finds that the thin border between rational and irrational is no longer reliable. Severina confirms Rey Rosa’s privileged place in contemporary world literature.
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