Review of The Translator’s Bride by João Reis

In prose which demands to be read quickly, the text of this novel is in constant motion.

The first person narrator’s brain never stops churning. Language is the malleable medium illustrating his ecstatic imagination and superimposing it on his luscious environment. Strange observations gallop one after another in a stream of intriguing imagery, stitching together a skewed world of humorous satire, pathos, and rich literary description, while also giving us a glimpse into the narrator’s psyche.

Each sentence is a large, symphonic accumulation, composed of staccato strings, swallowing environmental details into the interior monologue, and it does not collapse into a full stop until it has consumed all of the prevalent features of its surroundings. This method works not only to keep the locale in focus, but to create an intimate connection with the translator (the narrator). Recursive objects emerge in the boiling accretion of language, which flows onward unabated as our main character encounters a plethora of well-spoofed personages.

These liberated, grasping sentences are somehow addictive. They convey the difficulty of modern existence in the face of such diverse sources of modern aggravation as constantly barrage the observant mind. There is a medieval quality to the narrator’s perambulations, imparted by the Mythic influences acting on his psyche.

Helena, his muse, gets him through the day. Thoughts of her bring him out of the depths of despond. The scenery and the inanimate objects and caricatures that compose his existence inspire him with dread: The daily tribulations of a translator, a nobody by his own admission, skirting the edge of a Kafkaesque society, but in truth, the breathless, all-encompassing, vivid evocations of his world provide a modus operandi, a method of living and creating out of the greasy gears of the exterior world. With this constant internalization, the translator imposes judgement with his gaze, and we see the world through his mental “translation.” We are given a luscious interpretation of the perpetually discomfiting nameless city.

The level of detail conveys an uncanny darker version of reality. The world presents grotesqueries in an unending parade. Nonetheless, confronting these obstacles represents a post-modern mini-odyssey.

I look forward to the author’s next work to appear in English.

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