Author: Nicolas Casariego (translated by Thomas Bunstead)
Publisher: Hispabooks Publishing
Why I chose to read this book: Hispabooks kindly got in touch after seeing my previous reviews on translated European fiction and this title stood out on their list so I requested a copy.
Where to read: Outdoors. If you can make the most of the last of the summer, I sat under a tree in a quiet corner of Battersea Park
Refreshments: I tried not to be so obvious however, reading about life in Madrid is always going to stimulate an appetite for chunks of chorizo with manchego and perhaps some crusty bread washed down with san pellegrino lemon. If you’re feeling a bit fancier than the usual supermarket option then track down a local Spanish deli like Brindisa.
After an unexpected incident triggers his first anguish attack in months, Antón is dead set on putting an end once and for all to his woeful days. Masterly woven into novel form by Nicolás Casariego, his journal, a miscellanea of narrative, reflection, and witty comments on famous self-help books and the works of great philosophers and renowned authors, will bear witness to his quest for happiness. An action-packed book with a refreshing tone, a sharp outlook, and, above all, plenty of humor.
Written as a diary to his great-great-great grandfather, Hungarian immigrant Vidor Mallick, the combination of conversation, quotes and critiques of philosophical ideas creates a unique and compelling style of writing that I haven’t before experienced. The plot is subtly woven giving glimmers into the reasons behind Anton’s depression combing over his estranged family and day to day life slowly revealing dark and often shocking incidents that have befallen him. As a character, Anton draws you into the centre of his world and forces you into caring for him as if he were a real friend, something which can only be attributed to Casariego’s skills and flair in creating believable heroes.
The prose of this tragicomedy is brilliant swinging from the mundane to the hilariously acute, a number of times I was to be found either chuckling to myself or gasping in shock. Anton’s brother Zoltan, who one could belittle by calling the villain in the story has a number of the best one liners. His self-absorption and bouts of hysteria cast an interesting light on the psychotherapy, giving credence to the belief that the best psychologists are often afflicted by the same psychosis as there patients. Their mother is equally reflective of anyone’s post-technology relatives, with their weekly Skype chats offering a mirror image to many a Sunday afternoon in my living room.
An investigation and dissection of this abstract noun, Anton is dark and witty, his diary offering up a fantastic satire on people’s desire for an impossible happiness. The style of this book might take a little getting used to and it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but I would certainly recommend giving it a go as it is a very rewarding and enjoyable read.
Rating: 8 out of 10