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3.99  ·  Rating details ·  151 ratings  ·  26 reviews
A controversial finalist for the National Book Award in 1990, Chromos is one of the true masterpieces of post-World War II fiction. Written in the 1940s but left unpublished until 1990, Chromos anticipated the fictional inventiveness of the writers who were to come along Barth, Coover, Pynchon, Sorrentino, and Gaddis. On one level, Chromos is the American immigration novel ...more
Hardcover, 348 pages
Published October 1st 1990 by Dalkey Archive Press (first published January 2nd 1985)
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Jim Fonseca
Jun 23, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spanish-authors
A re-write of a review from a few years ago.

A fascinating, comic 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 coming to America and learning American culture. But it's also a story of immigrants examining and re-learning their own culture in comparison to that of their new environment and how their perspectives shift as the immigrants learn English.


As Spanish immigrants from Spain, their fi
Mike Puma
Jun 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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

MJ Nicholls
Jun 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
“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
‘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
Harry Collier IV
The moment one has to give stars complications set in...

What do you give a book that deserves no less than 5 stars and at the same time deserves no more than 3?
The writing is great. The storytelling through the first 250 pages is top notch. Then the magic just kind of fizzled out for me.
I read Locos a while ago and still vividly remember many of the characters, so it was a delight to read of their further adventures. This time most have moved to New York and find themselves astranged from their
Apr 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"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
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
Marcia Letaw
Jan 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I discovered Chromos in a bookshop, not one of those great hulking used bookstores where the books are thrown about like leftover refuse, no this bookshop was a time traveler, a holdover from a bygone era where books are respected and cherished. As I was saying: I discovered Chromos hiding away in the Books Translated from Spanish section. It called out to me with its intriguing cover and the opening lines: "The moment one learns English, complications set in. Try as one may, one cannot elude th ...more
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
m csmnt
Jun 01, 2018 rated it liked it
“In order to preserve the sequence of Garcia’s stories, I have sacrificed my own.”

Forget 4D chess, this is 4D snakes and ladders where every snake leads to a new board of story only to climb back into the one you left off reading.

Chromos extends the familiar framework from Locos, which feels more like the 1001 tales with an emphasis on character trickery, but this time we put Locos inside of Locos (inside of Locos, inside of Locos…(?)).

Within the broad subject of Spaniards in New York making it
Apr 14, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Jun 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jul 19, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Marc Nash
Too subtle for me I think. A book about exile, but so specific to the Spanish that i felt it struggled to broaden out into a universal experience of exile. And one of the streams of the book is a consciously melodramatic novel within a novel about old Spain, that was, well just melodramatic. Fiction aping bad fiction is little more than bad fiction, bad in the sense of being unengaging.

The passages I most enjoyed, on religion and on science, I think were meant to be satirical, poking fun at the
Jul 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Pretty clear that Chromos is one of the great novels of the 20th century. Pretty goddamn dispiriting that it took fifty years to find a publisher (only to subsequently be shortlisted for the National Book Award). It is a profound and very funny unity of plurals; not so much a shaggy dog story and a shaggy paella of stories, with an explicitly ontological context. Indeed, a totally amazing discussion of geometry and physics (evidently the true passions of Mr. Alfau) leads one to ask: what else is ...more
Herr Bellerophon
Mar 19, 2016 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
Pete Camp
Mar 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Masterfully written. Alfau was the predecessor to Gaddis and Pynchon. Although this novel was written in 1948 and left unpublished until 1990, his style in present in both authors works. Exceptionally good read.
Geoff Wehmeyer
Jul 02, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it did not like it
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.
Feb 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
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.
unfortunately this novel was too hard for me to read or finish.
Lane Wilkinson
enjoyable, though I admit to being unable to follow the story.
I Watts
Very funny... and kind of not. Only kind of... not, mostly funny.
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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.
“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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