Navidad & Matanza

Pretty good review of Navidad & Matanza, the first book to be translated by the interesting CHilean author Carlos Labbé, in Bookforum.

There are at least nine different ways to explain what Navidad & Matanza is about—each version equally accurate and equally inadequate. Here’s one version: The story starts in the middle of a behaviorist experiment. Seven biology students, who also happen to be interested in creative writing, are confined in a subterranean dormitory and dosed with hadón, an anger drug. To pass the time before they either escape or kill each other off, they play a novel-game, which has each one contributing a chapter to a novel by e-mail, exquisite-corpse style: “It involved rolling dice,” Domingo explains, “moving your token to a space with prefigured plotlines and formal constraints, writing a text according to those constraints and, that night, mailing this text to the other participants. Everyone had been assigned a day of the week, except Sunday, a day of rest. It was a game of complex rules and seduction. And the result was out of control.” In this particular battle between chaos and order, we’re challenged to assume that Domingo, as Sunday, is exempted; and to assume that Domingo is the supreme over-narrator; and to consider the possibility that the story we are about to read has several narrators and that Domingo is one of them and that he’s been assigned another day besides Sunday.

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