Monday, 1 February 2016

jacob the mutant [mario bellatin]

Jacob the Mutant is a genuinely strange exercise in writing. Bellatin presents the extracts of a lost novel written by Joseph Roth. These fragments are stitched together to tell a weird, cabalistic tale. Jacob lived in a border town on the edge of the Austro-Hungarian empire. He has a zoo. He helps people to cross the border. His wife is having an affair. She flees to the States with her lover. Jacob ends up following her. He has a transformation and becomes a late-middle-aged woman, who tries to shut down the town’s multiple dance schools. This is a basic summary of the apparent plot of the missing, fragmented novel. Which the author then rewrites in his own words. The author might be Jacob’s great great grandson. Then again he might not be. The translator adds his version. There is more exegesis. There are explanatory drawings which explain very little. There is also a latent hassidic mysticism to the book, which makes precise if baffling references to aspects of the Torah. In short, this brief book contains a degree of mystification which is impressive. What it all means I have no idea, but if you enjoy being bamboozled, this is a great read. I am looking forward to getting my hands on another of his books: The Uruguayan Book of the Dead. 

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