The Missing Year of Juan Salvatierra

Pedro Mairal, trans. from the Spanish by Nick Caistor. New Vessel (www.newvesselpress.com), $15.49 (116p) ISBN 978-1-939931-07-8
The latest novel from Mairal (Un Noche Con Sabrina Love) reveals through barebones language and startling scenery a son's hunt for the missing scroll in the magnanimous work of his deceased father, the artist Salvatierra. Mimicking Salvatierra's work within the novel's structure—important scenes grow out from the events captured in the scroll—Mairal builds tense and concise scenes within the greater mystery surrounding the artist. The narrator's composed voice may also be an extension of the all-important element of continuity. Throughout most of the novel, the voice imitates a remote lens, remaining steady while recounting picturesque details of Salvatierra's tragic accident, all the while expressing philosophical observations and blunt observations. When charged with a powerful isolated scene, this voice proves sufficient; when challenged to convey the narrator's own investment in his father's life, the writing tends to fall flat. Yet deep into the search for the scroll, the narrator at last illustrates—sans calm explanation—his own heart. In one seemingly effortless sweep, this scene illuminates both the narrator himself and the reason behind his obsessive search. On whole this enigmatic novel delights in its understated style, even though the narrator feels slightly beyond reach. (July)
Reviewed on: 07/22/2013
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