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Locos: A Comedy Of Gestures

4.19  ·  Rating Details ·  255 Ratings  ·  33 Reviews
The interconnected stories that form this novel take place in a Madrid as exotic as the Baghdad of the 1001 Arabian Nights and feature unforgettable characters in revolt against their young 'author.' 'For them,' he complains, 'reality is what fiction is to real people; they simply love it and make for it against my almost heroic opposition . . . By the end of this book my ...more
hardcover, 307 pages
Published 2008 by Farrar & Rinehart (first published 1936)
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Mike Puma
Jun 11, 2012 Mike Puma rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: I would beg some of you to read this one
Recommended to Mike by: MJ

The Short Version: An emotional thrill-ride, novel in stories—stories where the characters rebel, invade other stories, appear under different names, and cause various sorts of mayhem, confusion, and headaches for the author/narrator(s). Nicholls is correct on this one (is there ever any doubt?) As the stories may be read in any order, there’s probably no such thing as a (view spoiler). Read the Prologue; Mary McCarthy’s Afterword is optional.

The Long Version:

Identity— Si

Sep 28, 2016 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Tony by: Mike Puma
Once I was at the Café de los Locos in Toledo. Bad writers were in the habit of coming to that café in quest of characters, and I came now and then among them.

And so he did, this Spanish expatriate, writing in English, in New York, because he felt Spaniards wouldn't get it. Finished in 1928, it was eight years finding a publisher. And when it did, Felipe Alfau gave up writing and worked in a bank.

The book . . . Well, there's certainly an audience among my cherished goodreads friends. Appearing
MJ Nicholls
Locos: A Comedy of Gestures is a lost gem from the late thirties and was forerunner for the postmodern movement of the ‘60s onward. The novel is a series of interlocking tales wherein characters are redistributed among the manifold Spanish topographies, sometimes for significant contrasts, sometimes for simple mischief.

The novel has more in common with the ancient storytelling tradition, narrated in a fable-like voice, but Alfau is conscious of the limitations of this form and deploys footnotes
Vit Babenco
Mar 05, 2016 Vit Babenco rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Somewhere in Toledo, lost amongst narrow streets, there is the Café of the Crazy frequented by disused literary characters…
“Bad writers were in the habit of coming to that café in quest of characters, and I came now and then among them. At that particular place one could find some very good secondhand bargains and also some fairly good, cheap, new material.”
Characters live separately from authors and they wish to be independent and uncontrolled…
“…that which is reality for humans is a hallucinati
Jul 29, 2016 Rod rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dalkey-archive, owned
Puma, you sure can pick 'em. I thoroughly enjoyed this one. The "characters in revolt against their young 'author'" line in the description had me somewhat concerned; I could see it getting a little too whimsically "meta," like one of those Daffy Duck cartoons where he complains about how the animator is drawing him, and the animator retaliates by drawing Daffy more and more ridiculously. Thankfully, there's a lot more to it than just metafictive funny business. Certainly, there is the element o ...more
Ben Winch
Strangely, for a book recommended to me by a man who claims not to like short stories, this is not a novel (as its cover-blurb claims) but a collection of short stories. Linked they may be, but cohesive enough to be a novel they are not. Nor (while I'm on the subject of the cover-blurb) do they 'anticipate works like Pale Fire and One Hundred Years of Solitude'. The metafictional element - the 'whimsy of a loss of authorial control' as Mary McCarthy writes in the afterword - is no great innovati ...more
Poor Felipe Alfau! If he had stayed in Spain rather than immigrate to the States he would very likely be considered today one of the most interesting writers among the “avant-garde” artists of the 20th century.
Locos, a book he apparently wrote in the late 1920s but only published in 1936, and no one paid any attention to it until more than 50 years later, anticipates trends that can be found in other major 20th century writers. In fact, there is no doubt that the structure of Cortazar’s Hopscot
David Katzman
Feb 08, 2014 David Katzman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A tale of two cities. One is Madrid the other imaginary. A tale of two novels written by itinerant, international authors both of whom had Spanish as their first language. A tale of two experimental novels. One I loved; one I did not. Can you guess which is which?

Cortazar published 62: A Model Kit in Spanish in 1968; the edition I read was translated in 1972. Alfau published Locos: A Comedy of Gestures in 1936 in English. Cortazar had Argentinean parents but was born in Europe then moved back to
Not as good as Chromos, but striking for its time. The postmodernist technique within a story was most engaging in the first tale.

The best story from a pure writing standpoint was “Students.” This is one of the most realistic and yet most emotional portrayals of the fears and agonies of a child I have ever read. A (apparently upper middle class) boy approaching adolescence is sent to a parochial school in a small town. His teacher is brutal and cruel, and he must face terrifying dogs en route t
Apr 12, 2011 AC rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is very clever, an example of what wiki calls metafiction. I had never read anything like this, and was charmed and captivated..., at first. But charm is a thin substitute for emotional depth, and reading this simultaneously with Mrs. Dalloway cost this one a star. That said, a worthy little book.
May 01, 2007 Jeff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an interesting book and with an interesting back story. The author was from Spain and emigrated to New York City around the time of World War I. He wrote this book in the late 1920s, but was not able to get it published until 1936. Although he was Spanish and set the book in Spain, he wrote in English.

Apart from a children's book that was also published in 1929, he didn't publish any other books for over 40 years. After Locos was republished in the 1980s, a novel called Chromos that he w
Tom Lichtenberg
A wonderful collection of interlocking stories, told by and about a cast of shape-shifting characters who wander in and about each other's lives like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle which could be put together in endlessly different patterns. All of them are introduced at once in the very beginning when they are pointed out by the narrator as he sits in a cafe in Madrid, but then they each take the stage in their turns and weave odd tales that lead you on as patiently and deliberately as any Scheherez ...more
May 24, 2008 Stephen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008-partial
How has this book been collecting dust on my shelves or been traveling with me or been hidden in various boxes for so many years? It is brilliant.

It reminds me of Queneau's Flight of Icarus, in which the author's characters escape from the novel to engage in particularly Queneau-esque (Queneauvian?) antics, but Alfau not only prefigures Queneau (& Nabokov & a whole host of similarly-minded so-called "postmodern" authors), he tops him.

Thank god for Dalkey Archive.
Jan 17, 2016 wally rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
15 jan 16, 1st from alfau for me. just finished Wittgenstein's Mistress. now this. onward, ever onward.

later that day
i've discovered the need, rediscovered actually, the need to designate a new shelf, the mark of zero. well, upon my honor, i've been learning in my reads about this idea that i express as such, the mark of zero, this motif about disappearing. obviously,

in the first story here from alfau, identity, which says it all perhaps...remarkable too
Oct 29, 2015 Roberto rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: narrativa
Menudo hallazgo. Hasta hace dos semanas desconocía al autor. Novela nivolesca aunque sin la profundidad filosófica de Unamuno. Inmersa en la narrativa experimental del s. XX, el autor plantea la novela como un juego: ya en el prólogo invita, cuatro décadas antes que Cortázar, que “el lector puede tomar el libro y empezarlo por el final y acabarlo por el principio, o puede empezarlo y terminarlo por la mitad,” haciendo de la obra un relato circular. Toda la novela es un baile de máscaras, una com ...more
J.M. Hushour
Feb 20, 2013 J.M. Hushour rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've now read every novel of this amazing fellow, all two of them. Alfau, a bitter curmudgeon in his old age, is unclassifiable. I recommend this and "Chromos" to lovers of Pynchon, Borges, and the Weird. "Locos" revolves around a set of characters the author met in the Cafe des Locos whose identities and proclivities constantly shift in each section according to their own whim. In short, the author has lost control of his work and the characters themselves have taken over the narrative despite ...more
Sep 17, 2011 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: latin-america
These stories of a group of characters in Spain, gets a little confusing because characters show up in different stories, sometimes as different people. It was difficult to keep them straight, but still enjoyable to try to remember what the reader should already know about them. Scandals abound: suicides, thefts, incest, relations between nuns and priests, etc. Definitely recommended for Calvino fans.
Mar 09, 2008 Kat rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: awesome people
Recommended to Kat by: Michelle
Brilliant! Experimental and funny and sweet and tragic. If "A comedy of gestures" sound like your thing, read it; if you know any other authors like this, send them my way.
Jan 11, 2012 Ben rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011, 2012
Dreamy, funny, and way ahead of its time. Can't wait to read Chromos!
Kobe Bryant
What is it with Latin Americans and these kinds of books
Aug 14, 2011 Monica rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mr. Alfau, I gave you a second chance after the mess that was Chromos (American Literature, and you disappointed me again. Now I think I'm done with you. Granted, Locos: A Comedy of Gestures (American Literature was much better but I'm not sure it was worth my time.

Locos: A Comedy of Gestures (American Literature is a collection of short stories. Thank goodness there was an editor of some kind this time unlike Chromos (American Literature and there are acutally short stories, not just one long r
Jacob Wren
Felipe Alfau writes:

The result of this is a bunch of contradictory characters inconsequent as their author and just as clumsy in their performance. As their personality is a passing and unsteady thing that lasts at most a book’s length, they have lost respect for it and change it at will, because they have a faint idea that life is abrupt and unexpected.

Their knowledge of reality is vague and imprecise. Sometimes I have given a character the part of a brother or a son, and in the middle of the a
Aug 07, 2012 Rhys rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best things about Felipe Alfau's books is that they are clever metafictions which often anticipate the experiments of writers such as John Barth, Georges Perec and Milorad Pavic, but they are much lighter in tone. So you get the full metafictional experience without the creased brow! Apart from that, Alfau was a superb creator of eccentric characters. In *Locos: a Comedy of Gestures* we are presented with the butterfly charmer and escaped galley slave, Chinelato; the slightly sinister ...more
May 08, 2014 Alik rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In some way an archetypal storytelling (storyreading) experience - occasional and pervasive impenetrability to reason, colorful characters effectively - and ostensibly - made alive by their resistance to the author's will, some flirt with the reader, a breath of outdated comedy, profound and enigmatic urban surrounding etc. And then, of course, the allure of rarity. Mary McCarthy, who strikes a pose in the afterword to this edition, starts with stating that when she, 200 years or so ago, reviewe ...more
Fascinating characters star in incredible stories. The stories of love and death are written in an entertaining accessible style: mono- and dialogues and some basic description of the physical appearances of the characters. The setting is mainly Madrid, but Alfau gives no description of the city, it's streets, it's houses; just it's people, the Spanish people. There's more description of Madrid in The Rough Guide to London. This lack of couleur locale gives this novel, carefully constructed in s ...more
Aug 06, 2008 Bob rated it it was amazing
Shelves: world-literature
Talk about an unappreciated classic. Written in English by a Spaniard living in New York, this book languished in limbo from 1936 (when it was originally published) until it was reissued by The Dalkey Archive in 1988. The story starts in a cafe in Madrid and takes off from there. This book was way ahead of its time. Wait until you get to the pickpocket convention.
Nov 07, 2013 Jacob rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: shorts
Locos fits in neatly with the art coming from Spain in the 20's, though more playful and self critical. The differences may be why Alfau didn't get the opportunity to ply his trade more fruitfully.

Unique and recommended.
Carlos Recamán
¿Las críticas positivas de este libro son una puta broma? ¿Soy la única persona del mundo que se ha dado cuenta de que Alfau tiene el mismo nivel de inglés (y de redacción) que un estudiante de primaria de un pueblo sin internet de Ourense?
Kawika Lo
Oct 08, 2012 Kawika Lo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's one of a kind. It kept me going back and forth just to find answers. It will make you feel like a detective at times, picking up clues here and there until the end.
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Read this little tightly structured novel as a prelude to Alfau's BURIED/Lost Classic Chromos [recommended/required]. Or read it on its own. It's delightful!
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Felipe Alfau was an American Spanish novelist and poet. Like his contemporaries Luigi Pirandello and Flann O'Brien, Alfau is considered a forerunner of later postmodern writers such as Vladimir Nabokov, Thomas Pynchon, Donald Barthelme, and Gilbert Sorrentino.
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