Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Locos: A Comedy of Gestures” as Want to Read:
Locos: A Comedy of Gestures
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Locos: A Comedy of Gestures

4.23 of 5 stars 4.23  ·  rating details  ·  222 ratings  ·  27 reviews
The interconnected stones that form Felipe Alfau's novel LOCOS 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 ray almost heroic opposition" Alfau's "comedy o ...more
Paperback, 206 pages
Published December 18th 1997 by Dalkey Archive Press (first published 1936)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Locos, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Locos

The Third Policeman by Flann O'BrienWittgenstein's Mistress by David MarksonThe Recognitions by William GaddisThe Tunnel by William H. GassJ R by William Gaddis
Best Dalkey Archive Titles
7th out of 140 books — 56 voters
Infinite Jest by David Foster WallaceSlaughterhouse-Five by Kurt VonnegutGravity's Rainbow by Thomas PynchonIf on a Winter's Night a Traveler by Italo CalvinoThe Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon
Postmodern Genius
381st out of 452 books — 414 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 768)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Mike Puma
Jun 11, 2012 Mike Puma rated it 5 of 5 stars
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

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
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
Feb 17, 2010 Alta added it
Shelves: unfinished
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
J.M. Hushour
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
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
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.
Kobe Bryant
What is it with Latin Americans and these kinds of books
Mar 09, 2008 Kat rated it 5 of 5 stars
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 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2011, 2012
Dreamy, funny, and way ahead of its time. Can't wait to read Chromos!
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
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
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
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.
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.
Kawika Lo
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.
Alfau's characters disobey their creator and jump from story to story. Early metafiction.
Limited First Edition, 19 of 1250 copies, autographed by author, 1936
Anna Erwin
Aug 02, 2007 Anna Erwin marked it as to-read
Recommended by Margaret
Jonathan marked it as to-read
Nov 23, 2015
mario marked it as to-read
Nov 23, 2015
N marked it as to-read
Nov 20, 2015
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 25 26 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Palinuro de México
  • The No World Concerto
  • Mulligan Stew
  • Europeana: A Brief History of the Twentieth Century
  • Amalgamemnon
  • Take Five
  • Log of the S.S. the Mrs. Unguentine
  • Christ Versus Arizona
  • In Partial Disgrace
  • The Jade Cabinet
  • The Great Fire of London: A Story with Interpolations and Bifurcations
  • On Elegance While Sleeping
  • The Letters of William Gaddis
  • The Last Days
  • Tlooth
  • Lands of Memory
  • Night Soul and Other Stories
  • The Golden Age
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.
More about Felipe Alfau...

Share This Book