Translation Spotlight: Mark Steps Out ON THE EDGE

Article by mark

The economy in Spain is bleak; one can learn this from reading contemporary fiction alone. Toni Sala’s recent novel, THE BOYS, hit upon this repeatedly, lashing out at the injustice felt by the younger generation, as well as their parents generation, largely left without the security of retirement. Rafael Chirbes’ enormously ambitious novel, ON THE EDGE, takes this same topic but explores it through the corruption of the human soul. Yes, much of Spain is bankrupt financially, he seems to say, but morally as well, and has been for a long time. In this book, Spain is a microcosm of the world itself.

The novel, told in long, sweeping monologues that rarely rest, concerns Esteban, a middle aged man taking care of his elder father. Esteban has been cheated out of money by a longtime friend, and through a series of monologues--often from Estaban, but from other characters as well--a world of disillusion and mistrust emerges. It doesn’t matter much if the reader knows who is talking; quickly the book becomes a chorus of the lost and disenfranchised. The subjects range from immigration to world finance, to the universal themes of family and death. 

Fans of dense, enveloping prose should look no further. The book is lucidly translated by master translator Margaret Jull Costa.  And though the novel appears difficult, the writing is very conversational. Just be warned, there are a lot of words. A lot. I’ve already heard this novel compared to some of the books of Laszlo Krasznahorkai. The language is elevated in this novel, but not to the heights Krasznahorkai reaches. I found myself thinking more of António Lobo Antunes, the acidic Portuguese author who has as much disdain for his fellow man as the character Esteban does. Comparisons aside, ON THE EDGE is a large, ambitious novel that will leave the reader breathless

On the Edge Cover Image
By Rafael Chirbes, Margaret Jull Costa (Translator), Valerie Miles (Afterword by)
ISBN: 9780811222846
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: New Directions Publishing Corporation - January 25th, 2016

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