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Rex: A Novel Hardcover – April 8, 2009

3.0 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A Proust-worshipping narrator falls into the dangerous world of the Russian mob in this novel run amok by the author of Nocturnal Butterflies of the Russian Empire. In Spain's fashionable Costa del Sol, the narrator takes on the tutorship of young Petya, the son of wealthy Vasily and Nelly. Petya's education amounts to lessons derived entirely from Proust, considered by his tutor to be the ultimate source for all wisdom. Meanwhile, the tutor is exposed to the staggering wealth and suspicious circumstances of the household: Nelly parades around wearing enormous diamond necklaces, Vasily reels his new employee into his shady dealings, and sinister servant Batyk lurks in the background. Before long, it becomes apparent that Vasily and Nelly are involved in the manufacture and sale of fake jewels and are on the run from the violent Russian gangsters they've swindled. The narrator is a perfect Proustian naïf, steeped, as is the book itself, in the rich and allusive depth of world literature and language, but also deeply innocent and foolish. It's painfully intelligent if overwhelming. A cunning Proust scholar could tease a thesis out of this. (Apr.)
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"In Prieto, frivolity is a serious matter, and in that sense he mines the same territory as Nabokov. . . . Prieto's vision of Vasily as king swallows up the second half of the book and seems truly rapturous." -- Natasha Wimmer

"A confounding, glimmering, and literature-besotted novel." -- Oscar Villalon --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; Tra edition (April 8, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802118798
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802118790
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.8 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,159,475 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By M. Haber on June 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Anyone who is a fan of Nabakov, beautiful language, imagery and literary puzzles should not pass this novel up. Although the 3rd in a series, this novel can be read independently(as I have done).

The main character becomes a tutor for the son of a Russian family in Spain. Equipped with only The Book (Proust's 'Rememberance of Things Past')he quickly falls in love with his student's mother and comes to believe the family is running from the Russian mob. However no one is innocent as the protagonist lied about his credentials to get the job in the first place. Also...this is only the novel in "plot" terms and plot means very little to Prieto, who weaves science, the Russian mob, Russian history, Star Wars, The Matrix, diamonds and many other subjects that are somehow obscure - but not - into his writing.
Other themes deal with exile, love and how Proust saw everything in the world and was able to put it inside his masterwork.

There are too many beauiful passages to quote but this book and author should be read by many.

A superb translation of a masterpiece.
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Format: Hardcover
This novel by Cuban-born, Russian-educated José Manuel Prieto is narrated by a tutor (who asks to be called Psellus) and directed to his pupil, eleven-year-old Petya, the son of two Russian émigrés living in luxury on Spain's Costa del Sol. Petya's parents, Vasily and Nelly, are hiding from two Russian mafiosos they swindled out of millions in a scheme involving fake diamonds. But, in Rex, appearances are highly questionable, and the purported swindle could be merely a tool used by Vasily and Nelly to persuade Psellus to do their bidding, including transforming Vasily into the long-lost czar of Russia. Whatever the truth, plot is secondary in Prieto's unique literary creation that is Rex.

Psellus derives his lessons to the young Petya, and indirectly to the reader, exclusively from the Book, Psellus's name for Proust's In Search of Lost Time:
"If you receive nothing more from me than some knowledge of the details of the Book, if in all your adult life you don't manage to retain any more than a few passages, a few scattered phrases of the Book, that would be enough to give you a distinct advantage as you go out into the world. Only through the Book can you learn to judge men sensibly, plumb their depths, detect and comprehend their obscurest motives, sound the abyss of their souls."
Psellus's other influences include the supremely worthy Writer, who is really an amalgamation of numerous writers, including Shakespeare, Nabokov, and Dostoyevsky, and the despicable Commentator, quite likely intended as a stand-in for Jorge Luis Borges, and perhaps even, at times, for Prieto himself.

Prieto's prose defies description. It's unlike anything else I've read recently (or maybe ever).
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Format: Hardcover
My first admission is that I never actually finished reading "Rex". I read most of it - some 200 pages - but when I had to abruptly fly out and return the book to the library, it remained unread. For a while, I still maintained wishful thinking that I would finish the book but after a few weeks the book had almost completely disappeared from my mind. It became clear that this would be a book to fall into the category of "incomplete"... but for a better reason than just "its due date was up".

See, "Rex" is a very pretentious book. I'm talking REALLY pretentious, to the point where even I (typically okay with some raising of the brow) was unable to enjoy the read. I had to grit my teeth throughout every chapter, wondering at the various literary references (which mostly flew over my head, possibly because I was only seventeen at the time of reading...). The characters raised their noses to the sky, the writing expected the reader to understand bucketfuls of references and allusions, and the entire premise was built on this pretension, on this so-called literary basis.

I couldn't deal with it. Every page was a struggle, every ramble about Proust a tedious headache, and every additional moment spent on the novel one more spent on a book that I just wasn't clicking with at all. I tried to convince myself that the problem was with me, that I wasn't clever enough... but that feeling is pretty terrible. Nobody should ever feel inadequate because of a book and "Rex" made me feel that way.

Obviously the book has a lot going for it. I presume to readers who've read Proust, Nabokov, and Borges (to name a few) would probably tell me that there's so much depth and cleverness to the writing in "Rex". All I saw was pretentiousness at the expense of the reader.
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Format: Hardcover
OK, the L.A. Times review said this was a "Glittering example of literary play ... extremely funny." Yeah, right. I thought it was going to be great. The first couple of pages razzle and dazzle. It seemed like Borges. But now I've read five pages -- three chapters -- and where is the story? So far, there isn't one. This guy is not a writer but a puzzle maker. I don't know if I'll wade further into it or not. Right now, I'm putting it aside. Seems like deconstructionist malarkey.
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