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El hombre que tardo en amar (Finally Finding Love): Una Novela (Spanish Edition) (Spanish) Paperback – Bargain Price, October 31, 2012
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Nuñez del Arco's novel has not been translated into English, though it is published by Penguin USA and is available on Amazon. If the story seems familiar, it is because the novel is what used to be called a roman à clef and what today is more likely to be classified as autofiction. Literature so classified is controversial because the borders between truth and fiction are not rigorously observed. "I remember things the way they should have been," Truman Capote once famously observed. His extraordinary novella, Handcarved Coffins, was presented by him and his publisher as an investigative work of non-fiction. Capote even appeared on The Johnny Carson Show and told the audience how he had been sworn to secrecy by law enforcement sources. The general concensus today is that far from being an investigation, Capote's story is "only" fictional narrative. And the most respected comment about writing in the first person was made by the 19th century French poet, Arthur Rimbaud, who said, "'Je' est un autre." (I is someone else).
I remember things the way they should have been. --Truman Capote
Nuñez del Arco happens to be married to a celebrity who also wrote about the break-up of his marriage in his own book, El niño terrible y la escritora mala (The Brat and the Bad Girl Writer) . Jaime Bayly is a Latin American television personality, author and a person who inhabits what Miami could have been and still could be. That is, the capital of Latin America, a hemispheric cultural center that ties together the English speaking North and the Spanish South. Miami's advantages--decent, but declining infrastructure, a North-South international air hub which makes the city a border town, the publishing protections of the U.S.'s First Amendment, freedom of religion, a haven from political strife and a largely bilingual population --all should have led to a world-class international city. Unfortunately, it didn't happen.
Bayly's book is a much longer work that is more journalism than a novel. Large parts of his voluminous text seem to be previously reworked newspaper columns. Or is this, like a novel in letters, a literary conceit? Nuñez del Arco's book contains SMS messages sent by the protagonists to each other.
Moreover, Bayly's novel uses an untrustworthy narrator. That is, details of the story, taken from real life, have been changed. It is interesting to compare, for example, those details Nuñez del Arco feels are important to those which Bayly omits. One wonders how lucky Bayly was to have avoided endless transnational litigation. Defrauded in Lima by a family friend, he somehow avoided the savings-destroying powers of the Florida divorce courts. For this alone he should be grateful. But then again, there is no way to know if these matters are true or are merely part of a subsidiary plot.
How then, should autofiction be read? Do the facts matter, as Chomsky would playfully ask? Emma Becker wrote Mr because she had been abandoned by her older lover and saw that writing their story would be a way of communicating with him. Nuñez del Arco may have had the intention of settling scores through the spectacular finale to her own novel. Bayly's journalistic text could almost be read as reportage--as long as you don't pay too close attention to the facts. For example, in Bayly's books his older daughters attended Columbia in New York. According to the Peruvian press, at least, they went to a different university. This detail could well have been changed to protect their privacy; their real names were not used either. But it just so happens that Bayly in fact has two daughters from his first marriage. To include them in his book at all is to in a real sense, to include them in a historical narrative, only a historical narrative that is not accurate. It is impossible to know what author facts the author might have changed.
What Nuñez del Arco does, however, is take these events as the clay from which her novel is composed. That details diverge from what actually happened doesn't matter because they are irrelevant to the story. Other events are undoubtedly exaggerated--such as the finale--and what author does not relish the opportunity to answer those who once preyed on her? In that sense, the novel is both a lesson and a settling of scores. The latter must be personal, the former though, contains a familiar warning: when you fall in love, your life will be turned upside down. I found Nuñez del Arco's work to be cinematic--it would certainly make an interesting film.
At an interpersonal level, what really happened, that is, the facts, fade with time. Not so with art. Facts fade but art survives.
En este sentido, se agradece la fácil lectura.
El relato con cronología cruzada lo hace un poco más interesante: quizá, sin ese recurso, la descripción monótona de hechos y una light instrospección, habrían sido insoportablemente planos.
Pero éso fue todo.
Es un relato plano, sin erotismo -sólo descripciones anodinas de encuentros sexuales pobres-, sin suspenso, sin lograr una mínima profundidad en la descripción de los personajes.