7 November 2009

Carlos María Domínguez, The Paper House, 2004

Anyone who lives their life at least partially under the spell of books will almost certainly find the premise of The Paper House captivating: a copy of Joseph Conrad’s The Shadow Line is sent by a Cambridge lady professor to a Uruguayan academic. Not long after, the professor is dead and the book suddenly arrives back in England, caked in the dust of concrete. The small mystery to be solved is not the reason for her death – that is explained away in a very brief literary indulgence – but the nature of what has been done to her book while in Uruguay, and the answer somehow lies in the power of books themselves. There is a distinctly Latin American quality to this novella’s fanaticism for literature, but most of us who possess a substantial number of books will identify at least a little with such veneration and also be uncomfortably reminded of the sometimes unreasonable degrees of power our books have over us. It’s a self-conscious read and possibly too self-indulgent as well, but I can’t deny it is also unerringly engaging with many passages I want to go through again, so it’s probably up for a re-read soon.  PY


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