Lucas's Reviews > Los siete locos

Los siete locos by Roberto Arlt
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Jun 05, 2008

it was ok
Read in June, 2008

Hmmm... I have read that this book was panned by critics when it first came out because Arlt "didn't know how to write." That seems fair to me. The pacing of "Los Siete Locos" gave me the impression that this tale was reeled off as he went and never revised. The book alternates between interesting parts with vivid characters involved in bizarre ramblings and conspiracy theorizing, a lot of which seems way ahead of its time (I think this was published in 1927 or 1928), and then the parts where the main character agonizes over the uselessness of life, which to me was the equivalent of the overwrought, angsty existentialism typically associated with high school diaries. At any rate, basically being an existentialist in 1920s Buenos Aires, decades before Camus and Sartre, etc., did their take on it, must be worth something... kind of.

Supposedly, this book is an important one in Latin American literature because it was one of the first to use colloquial Spanish. So obviously you would have to read it in Spanish to get that effect, and it is something that may be a little hard to appreciate at this point in time, at any rate. The Argentinian slang is not too hard to figure out if you learned your Spanish in or are a native of another Spanish-speaking country... So you shouldn't have much problem figuring out the Argentinian slang for "pimp" that probably hasn't been used for the last 50 years, for instance.

I've also heard the argument that this book is important because while other, more technically-skilled writers may have had an audience of their family and their best friends, everyone in Buenos Aires was reading Arlt when this book was published. Maybe that matters as far as influence, but it doesn't make this book the "crazy lost classic" that I was expecting.

Not to be all down on "Los Siete Locos," because it does have a lot of interesting ideas... Some scarily before-their-time rants on dictators, military governments and the like. But there is a lot of slogging through some vaguely suicidal monologues written in very flowery language in between. It will probably stay with me, though, and I'd say that despite all the bad stuff I just got done saying, it was worth reading.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Francisco De Aldana Colloquial Spanish has been used in Spanish literature since the Middle Ages.


message 2: by Rocío (new) - added it

Rocío Lozada I don't agree... The book is a deliberately disorganized ejaculation of more than existencial angst, specially in the main character, Erdosain, I think the writing tries to reflect the psychotic anxiety, the mental chaos that the characters have going on on his schizoid minds. Roberto Arlt was critized a lot because of his lack of techique and all the grammar mistakes, yes. But you can't deny this man had a shitload of creativity and can take you violently to the murkiest places with an ease that scares you... I think that transcends the techique. At least that was my experience while reading this book.


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