31 August 2007

Ignacio Padilla, Shadow Without a Name, 2000

On a train heading for the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s eastern front in 1916, two soldiers play a game of chess, the stakes being an exchange of identities. The winner lives out the war in safety, the loser heads on towards almost certain death. Later in 1943 another bigger game is being played, but this time for the identity of Adolf Eichemann. Who is moving the pieces? Padilla is playing his own tough game of chess with the reader, but not one in which the reader gets much of a chance of keeping up, always being left several steps behind and given little opportunity to understand quite what is going on. The four linked stories are narrated with the same style of dense paragraphing, and Padilla provides the barest minimum of dialogue to dilute even a little this puzzling series of metaphysical whodunnits. It’s simply too schematic, reading like an essay, not a novel. Two words adorn the cover of Shadow Without a Name: ‘Ingenious’ and ‘Dazzling’ – Ingenious in the concept, I’ll agree, and dazzling too, but not in any illuminating sense, making this a hard book for me to like.  PY


No comments: