Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Trilogía de la guerra

Rate this book
La isla gallega de San Simón albergó un campo de concentración durante la guerra civil española, Vietnam fue la gran herida de la Norteamérica de los sesenta, la costa de Normandía fue testigo del final de la Segunda Guerra Mundial. Estos tres escenarios han albergado batallas. Al igual que hacen las estrellas extinguidas, que aún desaparecidas siguen transmitiendo luz, los caídos de estas contiendas están unidos a los protagonistas de esta historia que, desde los mismos lugares pero hoy, entrelazan sus destinos mediante conexiones sorprendentes.

Con una intensidad creativa que no da tregua al lector, Trilogía de la guerra despliega un caleidoscopio de narraciones que cristalizan en un insólito pero certero retrato del siglo xx y el desconcertante xxi. Como si W. G. Sebald y David Lynch se hubieran aliado para desvelarnos la cara B de nuestra realidad. Agustín Fernández Mallo, uno de los grandes renovadores de nuestras letras, llega aquí a cotas no exploradas y escribe su proyecto más ambicioso, con su estilo integrador de disciplinas como la ciencia, la cultura popular y la antropología, en una novela atravesada por una poética de enorme magnetismo que logra trazar un mapa concreto y trascendental de la contemporaneidad.

496 pages, Paperback

First published March 1, 2018

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Agustín Fernández Mallo

38 books175 followers
Agustín Fernández Mallo (A Coruña, 1967) es un físico y escritor español afincado en Palma de Mallorca. Es uno de los miembros más destacados de la llamada Generación Nocilla, Generación Mutante o Afterpop, cuya denominación más popular procede del título de una serie de sus novelas.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
141 (30%)
4 stars
164 (34%)
3 stars
103 (21%)
2 stars
50 (10%)
1 star
12 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 66 reviews
Profile Image for David.
236 reviews488 followers
January 9, 2022
In his latest work, Mallo creates a permeable world where reality, fiction, the living, and the dead intersect. The novel is a triptych of three shorter works, each of which has a distinct voice, but all three of which depict the aftershocks of war. In an indirect way, this can be read as an exploration of the legacy of Francoism, an era that is now an echo - present but not present like a war that has concluded. Mallo explores new forms and pushes narrative boundaries in a way that is both exciting and provocative. This is a work that deserves a wider audience.
Profile Image for Paul Fulcher.
Author 2 books1,171 followers
January 16, 2022
All human beings, no matter how far apart and unknown to one another they may be, are in fact joined by one war or another, the six degrees of separation that sociologist proved all those years ago, it would actually be cut to just four degrees if we took into account the wars that unite us all. And this doesn't only go for the present, but joins us to all the dead as well, as far back as cave people. Like the stars, shining down on us even though they're long dead, we're a legion of the living and the dead, joined by the self-same thing: destruction and war.

Translated by Thomas Bunstead from the original by Agustín Fernández Mallo and published by perhaps the UK’s finest publisher of translated fiction Fitzcarraldo Editions.

As so often in the novel the speaker here is not the first person narrator, but rather an interlocutor, here a friend from New York in the early 1980s and son of Armenian parents who emigrated in 1915 to escape the genocide. But the quote speaks to a key theme of this brilliant novel as the author explained in an interview in the Paris Review (https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2... - again translated by Bunstead):

There is a recurring idea in the novel, the thesis that the dead are never entirely dead, that in fact we cohabit a kind of hybrid space, us and them, as well as that the largest social network ever is not that of the internet but the one that joins the living with the dead. This leads us additionally to the idea that we are all socially connected with somebody who died in war.

The two titles of the novel, in original and translation, also play to this theme.

In Spanish, the novel was entitled, Trilogía de la Guerra, reflecting the three parts - each novels in their own right - that comprise the text:

In effect, [the book] is composed of a trio of novels shot through with the experiences of people who have either been through war, or are still living out wars they’ve been through. But they aren’t accounts of those wars, or indeed of the characters’ fortunes during them, but deal rather with what we might call the B side of war, its unsuspected echoes in our day-to-day lives

The English title, comes from one of the book’s two epigraphs (the other being “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore”), by the poet Carlos Oroza “Es un error dar por hecho lo que fue contemplado”, translated by Bunstead as “It’s a mistake to take the things we’ve seen as a given,” a phrase that reoccurs in the novel, including as anonymous text messages received by the narrator of the first sub-novel even when he is without a mobile signal, the significance of which we learn at the end of the third. The author comments in the interview that the quote “in the context of this novel can be interpreted as “it’s a mistake to take as dead that which we have seen die.”

Fernández Mallo also added that the four keys to the novel, in addition to a real-life trip to the Galician island of San Simón (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Island_...) which is echoed by one taken by the narrator of the first-novel, are David Lynch, W. G. Sebald, Elias Canetti, and Salvador Dalí.

I must admit the Canetti connection passed me by as while I have read Auto-da-fe I can’t claim to have much familiarity with his work. But Lynch’s influence is clear (thanks to my GR friend Neil) in the recurrence of odd imagery throughout the novel (from biscuits baked in the shape of a pregnant dog and made with human breast milk, to the hands chopped off the statue of a saint in 21st century Spain that wash up on the shores of Normandy decades earlier). And Dalí appears, post his real-life death, as an eccentric in modern-day New York.

The Sebaldian influence was most striking to me.

The first sub-novel is built around photos of San Simón from the late 1930s, when it was a prison camp under the Franco regime, which the narrator attempts to reproduce in his own walks around the island.

In the third sub-novel the female narrator, ex-companion of the narrator of the first, undertakes, a trip along the Normandy coast that is, as she explicitly realises, a mirror of Sebald’s, on the other side of the English channel in East Anglia, in The Rings of Saturn. (There is also an interesting conspiracy theory on the origin of Sebald’s famous photos)

And perhaps most cheekily, there’s a 21st century version of the Sebaldian perambulation, when the narrator of part 1 recounts tracing Nietzsche’s famous, and ultimately fatal, walk in Turin, complete with photos marking his own journey, of people and places seen. Except the photos are rather clearly taken from Google photos, as the author explains:

I believe that this whole search for the exotic and the “other” can and should now give way, in the twenty-first century, to something more effective, more real, and less invasive, traveling as it were secondhand—through social networks, books, television, Google Maps, et cetera—all of this being a kind of “travel” that redefines what is supposedly virtual and makes it real.

For example, in The Things We’ve Seen, using Google Street View, I undertake Nietzsche’s famous walk in Turin, when he hugged the horse and fell permanently mute. Well, I did do that walk physically myself, I went there and did it, I retraced the steps Nietzsche took, but the things that showed up when I consulted the Street View version of the walk seemed far richer to me, far more suggestive for the novel.

This is a novel of at times Sebaldian erudition as well, although Fernández Mallo rightly scorns over-research in fiction:

As for research, it was minimal, the less the better. I’m of the opinion that the need to read up on anything and everything in order to write a novel is a myth that stems from the realist tradition, or from the kind of novel with roots in journalism. Research is a stone that can weigh the writer down, dragging you into the abyss—it prevents you from imagining or being free in your fiction making.

The second part of the novel seemed on first reading incongruous - one narrated by an ex-Vietnam vet, who claims to have been the fourth man on Apollo 11 and third man on the moon, the one who isn’t in any of the footage as he took the pictures. But this proves to be the section that underpins the novel.

Overall, a wonderful novel, and another stand-out from Fitzcarraldo.
Profile Image for Neil.
1,007 reviews625 followers
March 28, 2021
When I wrote my reviews of Agustín Fernández Mallo’s Nocilla trilogy a recurring thought was that the books would not be everyone’s cup of tea but that I really liked them. I think the same can be said about this book which, if truth be told, could also be published as a trilogy in three separate volumes (like Nocilla). I tried to imagine how the reading experience would differ if read in three separate books and a significant part of me thinks it might be better that way. That said, the work’s original title is “Trilogía de la guerra” (“War trilogy”) with all three parts contained in a single volume. The English translation, like the Nocilla trilogy, is published by Fitzcarraldo Editions and translated by Thomas Bunstead (who credits Ana Sánchez Resalt and Margaret Jull Costa “for their help in preparing the text”).

I have to admit that I was favourably biased towards this book by reading the back cover which says it is "Described as the novel David Lynch and W. G. Sebald might have written had they joined forces to explore the B-side of reality". I have very little knowledge of Sebald (“The Rings of Saturn” makes an appearance for several pages in this book and Sebald himself is discussed), but I do have a complete collection of David Lynch DVDs (including all series of Twin Peaks as well as his movies), so I have no hesitation in endorsing that aspect of the description: reading this book feels remarkably like being in a David Lynch movie, for reasons that may become clearer if you keep reading.

The other thing film/TV thing that I thought about several times as I read this is the TV series “Lost” that I spent a lot of time watching over a period of several years when it was first broadcast. This was a weird TV series that was notable for its strange connections that appeared throughout the series. People spent a lot of time searching each episode for these references out to other episodes (an early example was the numbers on a winning lottery ticket matching the numbers painted on the roofs of police cars when seen in an aerial shot of a car park), and reading this book invites the reader into a similar kind of world where strange and apparently bizarre items jump from one part of the trilogy to another and where multiple motifs and phrases repeat in different contexts. Spotting these is a significant part of the fun in reading the book, so I will not mention any of them here.

To begin, an unnamed narrator, a writer, takes part in a conference about ‘Net-Thinking’ held on the island of San Simón off the coast of northwest Spain. When he leaves the conference, he decides not to return home but to sneak back to the now uninhabited island where he begins to delve into the island’s history as a prison camp during the Spanish Civil War. In the kind of thing that will get Lost fans very excited, he uncovers this history on a collection of vintage PCs, all powered by the Intel 486 chip and the hotel room he is staying in is, of course, room 486. That’s a very minor coincidence in the scheme of things, so stay alert! From the island, we move, abruptly and mysteriously, to New York and then to South America and, all the way through, the dreamlike nature of the text builds until we have the perpetual fires of Africa mixing with New York’s falcon population while watching the ongoing churn of rubbish in the East River as a man who seems to be Salvador Dalí tells a story about death by overconsumption of protein, specifically rabbits.

And that’s just Book I.

In Book II, we meet Kurt. Kurt was, he tells us, the fourth astronaut on Apollo 11. Except he has been redacted from the records and doesn’t appear in any photos because he took them. And Book III is narrated by a woman, apparently the abandoned girlfriend of the first narrator, who undertakes a pilgrimage to Normandy where she encounters large numbers of Syrian refugees and the Brexit referendum.

There’s no denying it is a confusing book to read. But I think that’s at least part of the author’s purpose. To return to David Lynch, large parts of the book have the same kind of dreamlike feel that you get watching a Lynch movie. Objects appear and re-appear in what seems a significant ways but might actually just be for atmosphere. What is real in one story appears as part of a hallucination in another. There is repeated reference to multiple layers (e.g. multiple layers of archeology under our feet, multiple layers of carpet in a room and, strangely, multiple layers of epilogues in books - you will understand this when you get to that part of the book). And, for me, it’s this sense of connections across layers that makes the novel hold together despite its apparent randomness. The blurb on the back talks about “the strangeness and interconnectedness of human existence in the twenty-first century” and I think the book really is about this, but it is about it in an allusive sense not in a direct sense, it’s about it in the things it makes you think about as you join the dots yourself rather than in the things it explains directly (which are few and far between), it’s about it in all its digressions and rabbit holes. I made a note as Book I drew to close about how I had smile on my face because I simultaneously had both a sense of things all coming together and a sense of not really knowing what all those things were. That made me smile because I love books that do that to me. You might react very differently, of course. It happened again at the end of Book II and then again in Book III. I don't claim to understand it, but I don't think "understanding it" is what it is about. I did, however, thoroughly enjoy the reading experience.

UPDATE: With thanks to Paul for pointing me towards this, a great interview with the author appeared in The Paris Review a few days after I wrote this review. If this had been available at the time, I would probably have quoted from it more than once: https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2...
Profile Image for Fernando Jimenez.
641 reviews60 followers
May 16, 2018
Agustín Fernández Mallo abre su ‘Trilogía de la guerra’ con una visita a la isla coruñesa de San Simón, rememorando las fotografías que allí tomó en la Guerra Civil Dámaso Carrasco Duaso mientras fue preso en el campo de concentración que instaló el bando golpista, y la cierra con un auténtico Apocalipsis bíblico en las playas de Normandía donde las plagas contemporáneas en forma de neofascismo y turismo de masas parecen anunciar un fin del mundo que empieza por el fin de Europa. En el medio, casi 500 páginas de la mejor literatura comunicadas por agujeros negros y gusanos espacio-Tiempo que leeré en 2018. Ojalá disfrutéis tanto como yo.
Profile Image for Repix.
2,157 reviews395 followers
June 13, 2019
Un maravilloso caleidoscopio de sensaciones, de estar y ser en diferentes momentos, de vivir. Un libro grande y diferente.
Profile Image for Laura Gotti.
331 reviews444 followers
December 22, 2022
Un altro dei libroni imperdibili di quest'anno. Di cosa parla? Boh. Chi sono i personaggi? Boh. Dove ci porta? Boh. Devo leggerlo? Certo.
Questo è un libro come Solenoide di Cartarescu ma più piantato per terra, come Sebald. Sono quei libri dove non succede niente, o molto poco, e dove impari tantissimo dalle parole, dalla noia a tratti, dalle nozioni che contengono, dai mondi in cui ci vuole trasportare. Libro diviso in tre parti, interconnesse o no dovete deciderlo voi a seconda di come leggete gli indizi disseminati tra i lunghi capitoli, in cui, a parere mio, la seconda è la meno riuscita, la più letta, la più vista non a caso ambientata negli Stati Uniti in versione decadente, disperata, abbandonata. Ma il primo libro è folgorante e l'ultimo, dove la narratrice è una donna, è quello che brevemente tira un po' le fila del romanzo e che si avvicina di più, citandolo in continuazione, a Gli anelli di Saturno di Sebald ricalcandone quasi la camminata ma sulla sponda opposta: non siamo in Inghilterra ma siamo in Normandia.

Un libro da leggere quando si ha tempo e testa, perché bisogna dargli respiro e, a volte, vincere un po' di noia per trovare poi, nel paragrafo successivo, un po' di folgorazione che ti serviva per tirare il fiato.

Bottigli di Cabernet, generosa e mai scontata, morbida al palato e perfetta per scaldare l'anima in un periodo un po' così.
Profile Image for Paul Dembina.
394 reviews82 followers
August 9, 2021
This book is split into 3 constituent parts (or books) each one with a different narrator. The 1st is a version of the author, the 2nd an American called Kurt Montana who alleges he was the invisible 4th astronaut in the Apollo 11 mission (despite him being too young at the time and also having served at that time as a pilot in Vietnam), the 3rd a woman who has a connection with someone else in the book.

Each character is on a mission of some sort and each ruminates on things seen in a way reminiscent of WG Sebald, and in fact he's directly referenced in the book also.

I found it interesting and enjoyable. Sorry, can't be very specific (as ever). Recommended.
Profile Image for jeremy.
1,113 reviews275 followers
August 1, 2021
we look for certainty, we die in fear, that's all there is.
as (delightfully) bewildering as the nocilla trilogy was, agustín fernández mallo's new one, the things we've seen (trilogía de la guerra), is even better. the spanish author's latest (originally published in 2018), is more mature, more grounded, and altogether more assured an outing than its predecessor (and entirely different in scope too). a triptych spanning decades, continents, and disparate characters, the things we've seen's three books aren't connected or linked in a linear sense, but repeating themes and phrases reverberate throughout.
it was as though evil was actually held in higher regard than what's good. by this same logic, what's good, with no one keeping an account of it or checking it in any way, is a kind of echo that resounds to the ends of what is known, and its expansion, like that of the universe, will know no limits.
while comparisons to sebald abound (and for good reasons, especially as he and his work figure into part of the things we've seen), fernández mallo's writing in this book reminded me most of javier marías at his digressive best. funny, thought-provoking prose meanders discursively, alighting in places seldom trafficked and often overlooked. with keen observations about modern life, the history that preceded it, and the future still to follow, the things we've seen spurs many a thought about synchronicity and eternal return. fernández mallo is so damn talented a writer and it would indeed be a mistake to take the things we've read as a given.
there are such things that, paradoxically, arrive out of the past and impact us for all that we're yet to arrive in their future.

*translated from the spanish by thomas bunstead (herrera, vila-matas, villoro, halfon, millás, gainza, et al.)
124 reviews3 followers
March 25, 2018
Una novela magnífica e importante. Fernández Mallo tiene una voz narrativa que sin ser nunca oscura consigue ser sumamente poética. En esta ocasión, el laberinto de historias que teje va construyendo un sutil todo significativo que culmina con éxito. Como dice en el libro sobre Sebald, “...ésa es la grandeza de toda buena literatura, no sólo hacernos ver lo que no existe sino lo que ni tan siquiera podríamos llegar a concebir”. Si fuera escritor, me hubiera gustado escribir una obra como esta.
Profile Image for David Torres.
171 reviews
July 6, 2021
"Es un error dar por hecho lo que fue contemplado".
Hablar de este libro me resulta muy complicado, entre más lo pienso siento que son demasiadas las cosas que se me escaparon, o que no entendí, o que relaciono pero no logro del todo comprender. Esta novela está conformada por 3 partes (igual de confusas y enigmáticas) las cuales guardan entre sí conexiones inesperadas y sorprendentes, todas fruto de la casualidad. La novela en sí no es muy compleja, son diferentes personajes que pasan por situaciones aparentemente intrascendentes, pero el autor aprovecha esto para crear todo tipo de enigmas y conexiones de lo más curiosas, uniendo a sus personajes e hilando sus destinos. La novela toca todo tipo de reflexiones, algunas complejas como la Teoría de la Basura (la cual habla sobre nuestra sociedad como una construcción de residuos de nuestros antepasados), hasta más sencillas como las mascotas de las cadenas publicitarias y su existencia por fuera de los trajes. El libro está repleto de pensamientos, desvaríos y conexiones.
Es de resaltar el talento que tiene Fernández Mallo, sin duda un escritor que me interesa ampliamente, tanto por su prosa (que puede ir desde lo sentimental hasta lo científico y seguir siendo atractiva), hasta sus ideas, algunas de ellas completamente memorables y que he adoptado a mi pensamiento actual, además de que gracias a este libro empecé a escuchar a Sparklehorse, grupo que desconocía y que ahora me encanta, algo que agradezco enormemente.
Ahora, como puntos negativos:
- Varios tramos se hacen lentos, a pesar de que la escritura de Fernández Mallo no es densa, las situaciones simplemente no resultan tan atractivas; esto mejora a partir de la página 200, antes de eso es bastante confuso y parece que no va a ninguna parte.
- Los personajes no terminan de tener un encanto, lo más atrayente es sin duda lo que les sucede, pero estos, a pesar de constantemente reflexionar sobre su entorno, no lo llevan a un plano muy sentimental, o al menos yo no lo sentí de esa forma; conecté más con los sucesos que con los personajes.
- No es un libro que recomendaría a cualquiera. Su lectura, aunque no es lenta, sí que da vueltas en cosas que no a todos les llamarán la atención. Como dije antes, las primeras 200 páginas son muy extrañas y un lector que no sea paciente de seguro lo abandonará sin interés. La forma de leer este libro es interesándote en verdad por la construcción de un universo, por los detalles que el autor deja sueltos y que retoma múltiples veces, como pequeños guiños que tienes que atrapar constantemente para darle una especie de sentido a las cosas. No lo recomiendo a lectores impacientes o que necesitan que todo el tiempo suceda algo.
El final del libro recompensa si entendiste el juego que propone la novela, a continuación un gif de mi reacción:
Seguiré leyendo Agustín Fernández Mallo cuando pueda conseguir más de sus libros, aquí en Colombia son un poco caros.
Profile Image for Héctor Genta.
357 reviews67 followers
May 28, 2022
«solo dai contorni più esterni, dai bordi estremi, è possibile arrivare a comprendere cosa siano le cose. Si tratta di un principio universale che vale anche per ciascuno di noi, pertanto dobbiamo allontanarci dalla nostra vita se vogliamo vedere che contorno, che sagoma ha il vissuto, […] e solo allora, è possibile definire "una vita intera".»

Opera divisa in tre libri, tre racconti distinti ma collegati da una rete sotterranea frutto di una macchina narrativa che Mallo congegna con perizia, inserendosi di prepotenza in quel ramo del Postmoderno che gemma dalla figura di W.G. Sebald e sembra avere al momento in M. Énard il suo esponente più rappresentativo.
I personaggi dell'opera ci portano a spasso per l'isola di San Símon, in Galizia, per le strade di New York, Miami, Los Angeles, ma anche a Cuba o lungo le coste della Normandia. Storie di moderni flâneur, che nel loro vagabondare fotografano, annusano, ascoltano, raccolgono indizi, coincidenze, simmetrie invisibili, che seguono come segugi per costruire trame che poggiano sul terreno di una guerra: quella civile spagnola, quella del Vietnam, lo sbarco in Normandia.
Storie dalle quali germogliano altre storie, nelle quali si incontrano personaggi di fantasia o reali inseriti fuori dal loro contesto e che probabilmente finiscono per confondere il lettore. Una confusione organizzata? In parte sì, ma tutto è lecito quando il risultato finale è un romanzo di altissimo livello, nel quale la guerra, il male, sono presenze costanti, l'humus sul quale germogliano pensieri, riflessioni, tentativi di tirarsi fuori da sabbie mobili dalle quali non è mai possibile affrancarsi completamente.
La memoria contro l'oblio, quindi; partendo da una frase del poeta Carlos Oroza che si ripete come un mantra per tutta la narrazione («É un errore dare per scontato ciò che fu contemplato») per dire che il passato continua a vivere nel presente. Ma non solo, perché l'altro (il vero) motore del racconto è l'immaginazione, la capacità di inventare mondi paralleli, la «trasposizione (cartarescuana?) di persone e oggetti del nostro mondo in altri leggermente deviati», curvando a piacimento le linee di spazio e tempo per dialogare, ad esempio, con García Lorca e Salvador Dalí al Central Park.
Trilogia della guerra è una pianta che guarda in alto verso l'Amore, un amore puro e totale, ma con le radici ben piantate – di nuovo – nel terreno della guerra.
Una critica dall'interno della società contemporanea, della cultura dell'effimero che propone i modelli della bellezza artificiosa, della contraffazione del corpo e dell'oblio del passato, alla quale Mallo contrappone provocatoriamente un'"estetica della spazzatura" e un nuovo umanesimo che invece di cancellare l'idea della morte, le ritaglia un ruolo centrale.

«improvvisamente penso agli epiloghi, non avevo mai pensato agli epiloghi delle cose, a ciò che sta oltre le cose, e penso […]che ogni cosa degna di esistere è stata creata per essere vista almeno due volte […], e quanto più si pensa a quel libro o a quel film, maggiori sono gli epiloghi che si sovrappongono, starti e strati di epiloghi, un'unica pila di epiloghi che si sommano senza interferire l'uno con l'altro. […] M chiedo: qual è l'epilogo di una città? O meglio ancora: qual è l'epilogo di un paese? Sospetto che l'epilogo dei paesi sia costituito da tutti i racconti, le storie più o meno fantastiche e i miti che le generazioni, una dopo l'altra, raccontano di quei paesi. Per dirlo in altro modo, sono la parte immaginaria già insita nelle cose che esistono»

«Il fatto è che la realtà è massimamente disordinata, non percepiamo mai le cose nella loro corretta sequenza temporale, per questo, anche quando parliamo o scriviamo, non rispettiamo l'ordine cronologico. La vita è un incidente aerei elevato all'ennesima potenza, la vita è una grande catastrofe, l'incidente definitivo, ed è con quel disordine che la raccontiamo.»
Profile Image for LindaJ^.
2,113 reviews6 followers
January 2, 2022
Weird and Brilliant

Might not human beings themselves by the result of an incessant counterfeiting, genes upon genes, all of which are nothing but very slightly altered copies?

For me, New York City was already the last medieval city of the Modern Era, like seeing Pompeii just before the volcanic erupted.

This novel contains three separate stories that interact. In weirdness, it was like watching three episodes of the TV show Twilight Zone back-to-back and having each show repeat, in totally different circumstances, something in each of the others. Each story was brilliant in and of itself but collectively they were even better. The book is complicated and confusing but oh so good.

I learned history I did not know, as there are very true historical happenings and people in this book. But what a different, and fictional, way to look at this history.

My GR friends and those I follow have written some excellent reviews (see Paul Fucher's -https://www.goodreads.com/review/show..., Neil's - https://www.goodreads.com/review/show..., and Jeremy's - https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...) and I encourage reading them. Mine isn't going to tell you much other than that the book was brilliant.

The style of this book - rambling, long sentences, few paragraph breaks - is one I do not particularly care for, but here it is brilliant. It took me almost 2 weeks to read, even though it is 12 pages shy of 500 pages. I had to concentrate and a half hour at a time was about the maximum. Many nights I fell asleep reading and would have to back up some when I came back to it, but that was fine as I always picked up something new. This may well be a book I reread. It almost demands it. If I'd finished this on December 31, as I had hoped, it might well have been my favorite book of 2021.
Profile Image for Alberto Delgado.
577 reviews106 followers
April 29, 2019
En la contraportada de este libro para venderlo nos dicen que esta novela es como si W.G. Sebald y David Lynch se hubieran aliado para desvelarnos la cara B de nuestra sociedad. La verdad es que no he leído todavía ningún libro de Sebald por lo que no puedo corroborar esta frase pero tengo que decir que lo de David Lynch si lo subscribo y desde luego tengo un nuevo autor pendiente de leer tras la semblanza que hace el propio Fernandez Mallo de Sebald en la última parte de la novela. Si me ha recordado a mi a otros autores como Auster o Bolaño. Un libro magnifico que te engancha desde la primera página en este universo paralelo creado en el que las guerras del siglo xx sirven de unión entre los tres relatos que forman la novela para reflejar la complejidad de nuestro tiempo y nuestro desamparo en él como individuos. Tengo que decir que no le he dado un 5 por la tercera parte del libro que no me ha enganchado como las dos primeras pero sin duda es un libro brillante , hipnótico y complejo,de esos que hay que volver a releer para descubrir cosas que sin duda en una primera lectura se habrán pasado y que al volver a leerlo serán descubiertas.
Profile Image for Sara.
503 reviews
July 5, 2018
Un Sebald descafeinado, pretencioso y que no para de congratularse por su propia elocuencia y las metáforas pseudo-intelectuales que hacen del texto uno farragoso e innecesario. Es una lástima, porque la historia de la isla de San Simón es una interesante y que tal vez en otro relato podría haber sido maravillosa; sin embargo, Fernández Mallo se pierde en esa forma que tiene de írsele la fuerza por la boca. No entiendo el éxito que ha cosechado pero, en cierto modo, tampoco me sorprende en un panorama narrativo que ha hecho de Patria o el Vargas Llosa tardío su seña de identidad más llamativa.
Profile Image for Anna A..
347 reviews34 followers
June 26, 2022
Memory, the Diachronic Mirror
"Isn’t it true that mirrors always entail lapses in time, given the time it takes for light to travel any distance?"
Even more amazing than the rich texture of this feast of a novel is the deceptively readable (as he puts it: scientifically clear) style Mallo employs to explore his themes: memory, stories, interconnectedness, authenticity. No wonder the author of Compass, Énard speaks so highly of this Spanish writer.

The three interlaced narratives called books function like a map of human interconnectedness. War and narrative are key elements in each of the three (echoes of Zone ?): vestiges of the Spanish Civil War visited by a writer; the Vietnam War recalled by the aging fictitious fourth astronaut on Neil Armstrong’s team; D-Day revived by a young woman on her walking tour of Norman beaches.

As the threads connecting these three sections are revealed in a satisfying way, Mallo debunks the usual myths relating to memory. Albeit not explicitly, Mallo transposes lévinasian ethics, i.e. the condemnation of sameness and the celebration of otherness, to narration. Storytelling is diachronic, transformative reflection, not a mechanic reiteration, because “sameness is a thing that reduces and weakens”. But sameness is impossible in human history. Even
“a repetition doesn’t bring about a law or a norm but instead makes the repeated thing all the more singular, like the species evolving in reverse.”
Memory does not preserve, but alters. Narrative mutations, or “slight deviations from reality”, are ingrained in history. Small details – too many to point out – are reiterated in Mallo’s frolicking intratextual play as he introduces his own slight mutation of history, making up the story of a fourth astronaut among those who first landed on moon.

This is no praise of progressivism, but a wholesome way to show the balance between change and constancy: “for a transformation to take place something has to remain the same.”
Our sebaldesque narrators, inevitably, philosophize about language, the primary carrier of memory between generations. Whereas the writer in the first section wonders what happens when a language, “the manifestation, the reflection, of a profoundly religious structure greater than it”, becomes extinct and unrecyclable, the protagonist of the closing section concludes
“there’s no such thing as a dead language, any such claim is like saying that the dead don’t live on in us, when it’s beyond doubt that the dead tend to be far more present in our day to day than any living person.”
It’s precisely this diachronic aperture of human existence that repressive authorities try to close up, our writer realizes as he notices that
“in conditions of isolation, there’s a tendency for bodies and brains to meld together into a single consciousness, into a receptacle for identical reagents.”
Individuality is annulled in isolation. In an unforgettably fine scene, Mallo breaks the solitary writer’s isolation by opening the metaphysical dimension for him. As he reflects on all these in an abandoned church, the writer feels being drawn under the protection of the saint with stolen hands (which will resurface, again protectively, in the third narration), who prevents the history-laden island from absorbing the writer.

The metaphysical function of memory is made explicit in the second narrative: “hell is for the unremembered”. In the same way as judgment day is “God’s account of the corporeal universe”, human memory also acquires an eschatological dimension, because it constantly puts together the elements of the past, “the things we’ve seen” into a narrative that is constantly actualized. Memory, however, is not an abstract affair. The role of corporeality is highlighted in all the three narratives. In the first, trash, the unintended remnants of human existence, is analyzed in funny detail involving Salvador Dalí. In the second, the link between corporeality and memory appears in the amusing tradition whereby sons are expected to extract a wood chip from their fathers’ coffin. The third narrative closes the loop, when the missing hands of the saint of the first narrative show up.

The fine criticism of abstraction is not a self-serving authorial gimmick:
“There is nothing worse than ideas and the fickle way they have of mutating… ideas cannot be touched or drawn or captured in a photograph either.”
It is in fact a tribute to life, to the lives of all who ever lived, and – with another humorous intertextual touch – to the lives lost to virtuality: “I saw the greatest minds of my generation destroyed by Facebook.”
Profile Image for Eteocles.
339 reviews18 followers
October 1, 2018
La primera parte es sensacional, la segunda se pierde y se hace terriblemente tediosa y para cuando la tercera quiere hacer de la trilogía un todo, es demasiado tarde. Aun así, es una gozada leer los constantes regalos narrativos, imaginarios y científicos con los que nos regala página tras página. Es un libro árido de leer, pero que depara muchas satisfacciones en cada página a los que nos gusta disfrutar con algo muy bien escrito y pensado.
Profile Image for Olivia.
40 reviews1 follower
October 8, 2021
Escribo mis reviews en https://sinrumbofijo.home.blog

Este libro hizo cuestionarme si valía o no la pena terminar las lecturas que no me están gustando o me están aburriendo, incluso pedí consejo a algunos amigos y varios recomendaron abandonar y no perder el tiempo, a lo que yo contesté que yo siempre había preferido terminar por una cuestión de disciplina y porque, en dado caso, no podría dar una opinión válida sobre él si no lo acababa. La realidad es que decidí saltarme algunas páginas de la segunda parte y darlo por finalizado haciendo un escaneo rápido de las últimas veinte páginas.

Me dejé llevar como normalmente hago, por el título y la contraportada; el tema de los conflictos bélicos es uno de mis favoritos, y haciendo caso de la descripción iba a ser interesante conocer la relación entre tres muy diferentes: la Guerra Civil Española, la Guerra en Vietnam y la Segunda Guerra Mundial: decepción… Sí, decepción es la que me llevé porque el libro apenas menciona el tema de las guerras. Los eventos no suceden en ellas, sino aparecen como meras referencias en los tres relatos personales, introspectivos y exhaustivamente descriptivos que suceden en la época actual de tres diferentes personajes y que el autor conecta con algunos datos aleatorios y casi sin sentido que menciona en todas las historias, pero sin gran fondo.

La primera parte prometía entretenimiento y fue la única que logró llamar mi atención aunque me costó mucho asimilar de qué iba cuando el relato se centró en la isla de San Simón en la isla de Galicia, la cual fue ocupada como campo de concentración para prisioneros opositores al Franquismo. La segunda parte menciona la Guerra de Vietnam desde el punto de vista de un veterano de la misma que más bien parece perdido en sus recuerdos y disparatadas y aburridas reflexiones, por lo que, honestamente, no pude terminarla. La tercera es narrada por la que resulta pareja del primer personaje y pasea por las playas de Normandía para cumplir la última petición que le fue solicitada cuando aquel desapareció sin aviso previo y desarrolla una minuciosa descripción de todo (¡todo!) lo que ve, oye, huele, piensa y se imagina; pone en palabras cada minúsculo detalle de lo que suele pasar por nuestras mentes en segundos, de los cuales, la mayoría son descartables y eso es lo que hacemos normalmente, descartar casi todo lo que en realidad no nos está aportando en cualquier situación; eso no lo hace este autor.

El libro me pareció un cúmulo de desvaríos e introspecciones inconexas que no llegaron a ninguna parte, la mayoría sin sentido e inútiles desde mi perspectiva, sólo un par que me valieron la pena subrayar, pero al final, una lectura que hubiera podido ahorrarme. Desperdicié mucho tiempo intentando entrar en las historias, comprender el rumbo de los relatos y pensamientos, para que resultara mayormente en aburrimiento y pérdida completa del interés.
Profile Image for Javier Avilés.
Author 8 books132 followers
October 4, 2018
Por una parte me ha parecido interesante y muy bien estructurada. Por otra no aporta nada nuevo. Creo que es deliberado pues la esencia de la novela es la imitación, la recreación. Mallo dice Sebald, yo digo Auster.
En cierta manera decepcionante... interesantemente decepcionante.
Profile Image for Anthony.
77 reviews
March 16, 2022
Imagine you are going to see a magician. He’s standing there with this black hat, and you know he’s going to pull something out of it. You can’t wait. Instead of tricks, the magician talks about his dreams, which are boring. Hours of your life pass. Your son learns to use his hands, to babble. You still think the magician might pull something out of his hat, but he doesn’t.

I know I’m maturing as a person because I quit on this book. Life is too short for this noodly diet bolano bullshit.
Profile Image for Bridget Bonaparte.
200 reviews6 followers
April 7, 2021
This book is amazing, that much I know for sure. The lattice of coincidence, recurring imagery, and strange long monologues makes this book like a David lynch movie but this book is so ~literary that a movie comparison seems wrong. Made my head spin, can’t really articulate how strange and haunting this book is. Fitzcarraldo really is the best press out there!!
Profile Image for Wesley Glover.
44 reviews2 followers
July 17, 2022
A haunting, meditative trilogy concerning itself with the dead: how they come back to us and shape our present more than the living, forming our largest social network. The fog-like prose, which seems to seep into every crevasse of our interconnected existence, pays homage to the influence of the late W. G. Sebald, a writer who tackled similar themes of a retreating past returning unannounced. The title comes from a verse of Lorca’s: “It is a mistake to take the things we’ve seen as a given.” To Mallo, it seems looking - whether that gaze may be directed toward a calamitous past or a disconcerting future - has always been humanities primary concern, and one that we often fail to perform adequately. “The Things We’ve Seen” is an elegy for displaced souls, the dead, refugees, even travellers utterly disconnected from events, moving through places “as animals and children do, with no memory of the painful event.”
Profile Image for Roberto.
129 reviews18 followers
November 24, 2019
La literatura como juego. Propuestas de ensayo. Una perspectiva celeste, desde arriba, pero lejos de ser superflua, incisiva como la mirada de los halcones que aparecen en la novela.
Reflexiones sobre la guerra: su legalidad, su ritual. Sobre el conservacionismo y el reciclaje, entendido éste como damnatio memoriae, como un reciclaje de la Historia, sobre todo de la intrahistoria, lo que coadyuva a la reescritura de la Historia.
Ucronías imposibles, el juego del doble, identidades-relaciones engañosas,…; malabares que velan la retícula literaria sobre la que se asienta toda la novela. Una red mortuoria intrínseca a la vida porque “Es un error dar por hecho lo que fue contemplado”.
Profile Image for Alberto Palumbo.
213 reviews28 followers
April 22, 2022
Lettura molto interessante, ma che consiglio soltanto a chi ha familiarità con un tipo di narrazione fondato sulla divagazione e sulle coincidenze, che è la tipica narrazione à la Sebald, a cui Fernández Mallo è debitore, anche se con qualche differenza (sintassi più semplice, fotografie che rispetto a Sebald non mi sembra abbiano un ruolo molto incisivo, elementi ricorrenti fra i tre libri…). Quello che inscena Mallo è l’influenza che la guerra ha avuto nelle vite dei personaggi, ma allo stesso tempo la necessità di confrontarsi con il passato, in quanto, come per Sebald, le tracce del passato sono individuabili anche nel presente, un presente fatto a strati, a “frattali” come scrive Mallo nel terzo libro.
Profile Image for Fernanda Villava.
170 reviews2 followers
January 29, 2020
Es un libro para digerir, redigerir, releer. Tiene una estructura muy interesante y apoyo de fotografías, que hacen al lector, detective. Existen conexiones entre los personajes que no necesariamente suceden en la trama, sino a través de un objeto, de una sensación, y eso da al lector momentos de "Ajá" muy satisfactorios. Excelente lectura, plagada de surrealismo, si quieres algo realista o más llevadero, quizá no lo disfrutes tanto.
Profile Image for Omar Abu samra.
555 reviews86 followers
July 31, 2021
It was an interesting piece to read, BTW the first book was my favorite!
Profile Image for Lecturas a bocados.
103 reviews4 followers
June 21, 2021
Me ha encantado, lo he devorado pero me cuesta definirlo. Tengo la sensación que he abrazado algo demasiado grande y necesito despiezarlo poco a poco, es una obra donde el autor me ha llevado por donde ha querido con el mejor de los propósitos.
Profile Image for Nameplease.
14 reviews
February 10, 2022
El primero de los libros es sin duda superior, contiene una vibración ascendente similar a un temblor.
El segundo perdió por momentos mi atención, aunque es inevitable sonreír ante las conexiones que va creando el autor hasta desencadenar en la historia de la búsqueda del último libro.
Creo que la prosa termina agotando un poco debido a la extensión de la obra. Lo mejor es dar un descanso de lectura entre cada libro o intercalar con otra obra.
Profile Image for Aaron.
53 reviews3 followers
March 20, 2023
The Things We’ve Seen, the wonderful novel by Agustín Fernández Mallo was simultaneously very enjoyable, and made me a bit sad throughout. It made me sad because the authors it reminded me most of are now dead, and died far too early. Comparisons to W.G. Sebald are common for this book, and I see why. Mallo’s writing in the first and third sections of the book is very reminiscent of Sebald–understated, almost scientific of anthropological a times, characterized by long digressions about facts from history or related to science, and interspersed with lengthy biographical monologues from characters that the narrators encounter. No one else really writes like Sebald, so I was pretty overjoyed to be reading prose reminiscent of his work as well as missing his voice that I’ll never read again. The other author I was most reminded of was Roberto Bolaño, another fallen hero of literature. Though he put out much more work–in a shockingly short amount of time–-than Sebald, obviously I would love more of it, since he’s one of my favorites. Mallo writes with a similar wry, dark voice, characterized by subtle humor and absurdity. Though Mallo doesn’t quite reach the heights of either one of these modern literary masters, he comes close–and that’s saying something.

The Things We’ve Seen is made up of three “books,” each one interconnected in ways that become clearer as one progresses through the novel. The first section introduces a narrator who seems similar to Mallo–or as people like to describe Sebald’s work: a narrator who both is and isn’t Mallo–who attends a panel whose purpose to be honest I’ve forgotten already on an abandoned island home to a prison that housed inmates during the Spanish Civil War. Because of experiences he has there he ends up traveling to America–both North and South–chasing down leads about a mysterious story related to the inmates.

The second book is a strange story narrated by an elderly man, Kurt Montana, who claims to be the fourth member of the Apollo 11 mission that landed on the moon. It includes my favorite joke of the book, namely that he claims he is none of the pictures because he was the one taking them. The narrator explores his autobiography and various cultural aspects of New York City and America at large.

The third book is narrated by a former dating partner of the narrator from part one, who walks the coast of Normandy–the one, it is explicitly stated, opposite the coast Sebald Walked in The RIngs of Saturn--trying to make sense of her dissolved relationship and think of what she wants to leave on the voicemail of her erstwhile partner, whom she assumes is dead.

As I mentioned, as the novel progresses, you understand more and more about how these characters are all connected. And connectedness is a primary theme here. Each character makes strong, immediate connections with people throughout the novel, but, oddly, they often cease almost immediately as they begin. One of the comic aspects of the novel is how frequently someone bares their soul to the narrator, only for the narrator to summarily walk away without saying anything. It’s like characters have lost the ability to be able to respond to others in person. Their lives are too much to face. Social media dances throughout the pages,, characters too distracted by their phones to connect with others. Stated that way, it feels hackneyed but not the way Mallo does it. A line that I felt I shouldn’t enjoy but did immensely was “I’ve seen the greatest minds of my generation destroyed by Facebook,” invoking the classic Howl and illuminating how absurd and kind of pathetic our world is today.

Extending the connectedness theme, “the things we’ve seen,” is from a poem and suggests that one should not take the things one sees as a given. The novel is full of strange connections, improbable coincidences, and mysterious puzzle pieces found at random. The modern world is very, very small in Mallo’s mind: everything is connected, no matter how far-flung something seems, it can come back around to influence anything else in the world. He explores this idea through connecting interesting scientific and historical anecdotes and how they connect to characters’ experiences in today’s world.

We’re all estranged from each other, yet inextricably linked in ways we can’t fathom.

The story also reads as a fun mystery, and absurdities are common. Dali as an old man shows up to monologue to people about trash and consumer culture; Colonel Sanders shows up multiple times like a specter; there is a character named Semicolon; people eat cookies shaped like pregnant dogs made with human breast milk. While I’m not sure I’d quite say it becomes magic realism, it comes close, and these surreal elements combined with the dry comedy really make the whole thing a fun read.

The second book was the weakest, and I occasionally found myself wondering what the point was, but it often looped me back around. The most prominent example being the narrator recalling his father’s attempts to start a timeshare in Florida, which gets fairly boring by the end, but then, in a way Mallo continually repeats, it turns out it’s a big joke: the narrator has been recounting a Jeffrey Eugenides short story that perfectly lines up with his autobiography, like there is nothing new under the sun and we’re all living lives that have already been lived.

There’s a mysterious character to the book a la Bolaño where everything seems to be suffused with meaning even if you can’t find it. The writing is great, and I found myself pretty riveted throughout, with a few aforementioned exceptions in book 2. Great stuff.
Profile Image for Rhys Thomas.
8 reviews1 follower
March 14, 2021
This book is a ramble, a really close inspection of fragmented lives in three parts, though the intersections show us throughout each book show us how small the world can be.

I didn’t get into book three as much as the first two, this would’ve been 5/5 otherwise. However, it was still very good and I think part of that was on me.

Mallo is a genius where it comes to locations and reeling off inner monologues. Haven’t seen anyone do it better. The translation feels seemless too, props to Thomas Bunstead there.

Parts of the prose and perspectives on life the characters occupy will stay with me for years to come.

This book is published on March 24, I would recommend it.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 66 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.