From Publishers Weekly
Argentinian Saer (1937–2005) sets his novel during a walk through the streets of a seaside Argentinian city in the early '60s with a conversation comprising memories, images, and digressions in the mode of Proust and Laurence Sterne. Two characters meet in the street and walk together while discussing Washington Noriega's 65th birthday party, which neither of them attended. The elegant aristocratic Mathematician missed the soiree because he was in Europe; the plebeian Angel Leto wasn't invited. The two men veer off topic to consider the behavior of mosquitoes and whether a horse can stumble, frivolous subjects that contrast with visions of Argentina's harsh political turmoil that would occur in the near future when the mathematician's wife will be killed and Leto will disappear, suicide pill in hand. Saer reaches deep into the psychology of his characters, yet for all his skill, the streams of consciousness become arduous as does identifying with the characters on an emotional level. Think Berman film, difficult but worth the effort. (Nov.) (c)
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In Dolph’s confident translation of Saer’s The Sixty-Five Years of Washington, the reader will find a world distinct from the worlds commonly offered by contemporary American literary fiction. It is not the South American setting that is distinct, however, so much as the style. The characters—some with simple names like Leto, others with grand titles such as the Mathematician—could be talking and walking anywhere, and talking and walking are mostly what they do. What feels foreign is the late Argentine author’s leisurely syntax and villanella-like repetition. This is an abstract novel, and often the abstraction feels more elliptical than profound, though Saer sometimes offers an idea so compelling and immediately recognizable, one cannot help but feel—or perhaps wish—one has had the very same thought: In the half-empty cabin his sudden and at the same time slow gesture contrasted with the illusory stillness of the airplane, which floated in a bank of the gray clouds like a fragile object wrapped in cotton packaging. --Kevin Clouther