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4.07  ·  Rating Details  ·  107 Ratings  ·  19 Reviews
Chromos is one of the true masterpieces of post-World War II fiction. Written in the 1940s but left unpublished until 1990, it anticipated the fictional inventiveness of the writers who were to come along - Barth, Coover, Pynchon, Sorrentino, and Gaddis. Chromos is the American immigration novel par excellence. Its opening line is: "The moment one learns English, complicat ...more
Paperback, 348 pages
Published April 1st 1990 by Dalkey Archive Press (first published January 2nd 1985)
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The Third Policeman by Flann O'BrienThe Recognitions by William GaddisWittgenstein's Mistress by David MarksonThe Tunnel by William H. GassJ R by William Gaddis
Best Dalkey Archive Titles
8th out of 141 books — 62 voters
Moby-Dick; or, The Whale by Herman MelvilleUlysses by James JoyceSlaughterhouse-Five by Kurt VonnegutIf on a Winter's Night a Traveler by Italo CalvinoGravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
The Shandian Spawn
49th out of 171 books — 54 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 691)
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Mike Puma
Jul 10, 2012 Mike Puma rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: the few

“Christ with castanets,” says Alfau without emphasis; “Cheeses!” as I’m wont to say myself.

It’s hard, for me, to know what exactly to say about Chromos. Brilliant. Incredible. All the usual predicate adjectives that seem to say so much while saying so little, other than exert with some vehemence that I was taken by the novel, tossed around for a couple weeks, then deposited on this side of the TBRs-Accomplished. In my case, ‘tossed around for a couple weeks’ may be considered warning as Chromos

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
 photo alfausm2_zpsczndootc.jpg
Steven Moore (then, editor at DA) with Felipe Alfau and ms. of Chromos, 1991

[I know how much Photo Reviews can f*** with your feeds (especially on those rinky apps) but I love pics too and too I just wanna get me some back. 'sides, I love this photo]

So, yeah, a ms BURIED in a drawer for decades. Excavated by the inimitable team of Moore & Dalkey. But, thing is, I'm sure there are more and more of these ms's BURIED in drawers (just look in Theroux's for instance) but too there are so many of
MJ Nicholls
Aug 26, 2014 MJ Nicholls rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: You
I read Locos: A Comedy of Gestures over two and half years ago, so I have no idea how Alfau’s two fiction books dovetail. But Mike will. So watch his space, watch his face. I can assert that (as far as my memory of Locos extends, which isn’t very far, though I do recall reading portions on the fifth floor toilet at Napier U—strange how memory works) Chromos is the superior work. Despite its “anticipating the fictional inventiveness of Barth, Coover et al” the novel is quite straightforward to re ...more
Vit Babenco
Jun 29, 2016 Vit Babenco rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“He was changeable and he was complicated and, in his manner of speaking, it would have been interesting to trace the wanderings of this complex variable over the subconscious plane and evaluate the integral of his real conclusions. To me, he was an absurd combination of a slightly daffy Irish-Moorish Don Quixote with sinister overtones of Beelzebub and the only Irishman I ever heard speak English with an Andalusian brogue.”
With a character like this who needs Ulysses or Baron Munchausen… Or eve
Sep 01, 2014 Caroline rated it it was amazing
‘And this is the stereochronic sense of life: to change, to retrace and to advance, to sidestep oneself and join one’s other past, present and future selves, and by undergoing this displacement along the axis of possibilities, to raise the curtain of man’s next state and let consciousness flood our total identity which remains invariant under all transformations. This is metanthropy.’

‘In Spain there is no aristocracy but only nobility, and there is a great difference, oh, yes!’

‘He remembered his
Mar 05, 2014 Jonathan rated it it was amazing
"The moment one learns English, complications set in. Try as one may, one cannot elude this conclusion, one must inevitably come back to it. This applies to all persons, including those born to the language and, at times, even more so to Latins, including Spaniards. It manifests itself in an awareness of implications and intricacies to which one had never given a thought; it afflicts one with that officiousness of philosophy which, having no business of its own, gets in everybody's way and, in t ...more
Tom Lichtenberg
Jul 22, 2012 Tom Lichtenberg rated it it was amazing
Chromos, by Felipe Alfau, is a sort of inverted Arabian Nights. Fictional characters insist on telling stories to the narrator, who doesn’t want to hear them. The stories bleed into one another, each one at least as compelling as the one before. The characters are from an earlier novel by the same author, characters who had dreamed of becoming real, and now here they are, meeting him years later in New York, telling stories of their own. It is an extraordinary novel, as was its predecessor, Loco ...more
Jim Fonseca
Sep 06, 2015 Jim Fonseca rated it really liked it
Shelves: spanish-authors
A fascinating and complex book written by a Spanish immigrant in New York in the 1940’s but not published until 1990. First of all it’s a classic immigrant story of immigrants coming to America, learning American culture and examining and re-learning their own culture in comparison to that of their new environment. He also speculates on language and culture and how perspectives shift as the immigrants learn English. As Spanish immigrants from Spain their first task is learning that Americans wil ...more
Jun 16, 2011 Monica rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Chromos is a story about a man telling a story about a man telling a story about..... well you get it. Much of the book is about a man who is writing a screen play and a story. The proposed translator is reading and being read said stories. Oh did I mention that, I think it was the translator, can actually read minds as well and you are privileged enough to hear the stories going on in others' heads? So it sounds like a decent enough idea for a book but the problems out weigh any of the brillian ...more
Sep 03, 2008 Donald rated it it was amazing
terrific, I simply vanished into the 3 or 4 narratives that moved through the book, like clouds in an August sky overhead while I was sitting in a comfy folding chair at the beach... at the beach, yes the beach, it took me months to read this, I wish I was still reading it, I wish it was going to be summer for another 3 months. Plot? No, not really... but who cares! Chromos was a pleasure to spend the summer with.
Herr Bellerophon
Apr 11, 2016 Herr Bellerophon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While definitely a good postmodernist fiction book, but having the misfortune of being published in the nineties while having been written in the forties, "Chromos" cannot help but seem overshadowed by the better or more well-known postmodern fiction that was written and published between the forties and nineties. But this doesn't take away--or shouldn't--from "Chromos's" merit which it certainly has--and manages to be quite an entertaining read along the way. The synopsis at the back of this bo ...more
Jan 16, 2016 wally rated it really liked it
there is an introduction titled "felipe alfau and the temptation to exist"...curious, given this trend i've noticed in recent and past reads, an idea i began calling 'the mark of zero'...shortened now to simply zero and i do not mean that spear-chucker in the white house. alas.

a good intro...providing a feel for the story...and i get a sense that the man, joseph coates, june, 1998, is not entirely sure of events in this story just as some reviewers here concluded. i dunno. i've read a number of
Mar 04, 2016 Katrinka rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At times, I had to wonder why Alfau was telling his story as he did, especially with the novel/s within a novel– but in the end, it was so enjoyable to read, it just didn't matter.
Geoff Wehmeyer
Aug 09, 2011 Geoff Wehmeyer rated it really liked it
I found the Garcia narratives to be pretty banal (as intended, i guess), but the last 150 pages were excellent. Party scenes were terrific, reminded me of the Recognitions - enjoyed the mathematical side of Don Pedro as well.
Dec 09, 2007 Jessica rated it it was ok
This was one strange book. Not really much of a plot, but that was half the point.

I'm just not very big into postmodern writing, and I'm trying to figure out why this is on the banned books list...
Isla McKetta
Jun 23, 2012 Isla McKetta rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Couldn't do it. Any fiction book that uses "lemma" in the first two pages...I am relatively certain the language was intentionally stilted, but I just couldn't do it.
I Watts
Dec 21, 2014 I Watts rated it liked it
Very funny... and kind of not. Only kind of... not, mostly funny.
Jan 31, 2011 Tuck added it
Shelves: dalkey-archive
unfortunately this novel was too hard for me to read or finish.
Lane Wilkinson
Mar 31, 2008 Lane Wilkinson rated it liked it
enjoyable, though I admit to being unable to follow the story.
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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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“This has been done by masters of the trade and Garcia had taken in every stock situation with amazing powers of retention, but he had not put things together right and had used extraordinary discernment in not adding one single touch of originality.” 1 likes
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