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

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  364 ratings  ·  55 reviews
The interconnected stories 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
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

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
4.18  · 
Rating details
 ·  364 ratings  ·  55 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Mike Puma
Apr 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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

Sep 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Tony by: Mike Puma
Once I was at the Café de los Locos in Toledo. Bad writers were in the habit of coming to that café in quest of characters, and I came now and then among them.

And so he did, this Spanish expatriate, writing in English, in New York, because he felt Spaniards wouldn't get it. Finished in 1928, it was eight years finding a publisher. And when it did, Felipe Alfau gave up writing and worked in a bank.

The book . . . Well, there's certainly an audience among my cherished goodreads friends. Appearing
MJ Nicholls
Nov 23, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Vit Babenco
Mar 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Somewhere in Toledo, lost amongst narrow streets, there is the Café of the Crazy frequented by disused literary characters…
“Bad writers were in the habit of coming to that café in quest of characters, and I came now and then among them. At that particular place one could find some very good secondhand bargains and also some fairly good, cheap, new material.”
Characters live separately from authors and they wish to be independent and uncontrolled…
“…that which is reality for humans is a hallucinati
Ben Winch
Aug 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 07, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned, dalkey-archive
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
Nov 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It takes more than a little something to write about your characters disobeying yourself, the author. Well, maybe it takes more of that thing today than in 1928, but still.

Despite that somewhat heavy-handed self-awareness at the beginning, (the authorial footnotes strewn throughout are a less grating touch) this text shines in the way it moves. It is funny and frenetic and invites you to do more than a little detective work.

Breezy tune-up read for Chromos, which I understand is his masterwork.
Oct 03, 2009 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
Dec 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
Not as good as Chromos, but striking for its time. The postmodernist technique within a story was most engaging in the first tale.

The best story from a pure writing standpoint was “Students.” This is one of the most realistic and yet most emotional portrayals of the fears and agonies of a child I have ever read. A (apparently upper middle class) boy approaching adolescence is sent to a parochial school in a small town. His teacher is brutal and cruel, and he must face terrifying dogs en route t
Harry Collier IV
Dec 01, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was exceptional in every way. I loved the way people were hidden within the stories but it did cause me to ask "Who was that again?" several times. I think it requires more than a single read-through to fully appreciate its nuances and subtleties.
The reason for the 4 stars has to do with the final couple of stories which I thought were longer than needed and didn't really fit with the rest of the book.
I am planning on reading Chromos next which I have heard fits together with this one
Simon Hollway
Mar 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
I fell in love with this by the end of the first paragraph and it didn't let go until the last page. Odd then, as I loathe short stories and abhor the term 'metafiction' and all that goes with it (coffee not in an instant granular form, sour dough bread, open-toed sandals, the city, people etc).
There is something charming yet conflicted about Alfau's narrative which makes it kinda edgy, cutesy and provocatively sketchy. A hot mess drawn with a light hand. A thumbs and fingers up experience.
Did a review of this book here:
Apr 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels-english
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.
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Read this little tightly structured novel as a prelude to Alfau's BURIED/Lost Classic Chromos [recommended/required]. Or read it on its own. It's delightful!
Aug 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 16, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Tom Lichtenberg
Jun 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
J.M. Hushour
Feb 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2008-partial
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.
Jan 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
15 jan 16, 1st from alfau for me. just finished Wittgenstein's Mistress. now this. onward, ever onward.

later that day
i've discovered the need, rediscovered actually, the need to designate a new shelf, the mark of zero. well, upon my honor, i've been learning in my reads about this idea that i express as such, the mark of zero, this motif about disappearing. obviously,

in the first story here from alfau, identity, which says it all perhaps...remarkable too
Mar 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Who was this Spanish American who wrote an English novel meaning "The Crazies" twenty years ahead of similar surreal stylings of Marquez and Calvino? The book rockets off with some dazzling postmodern fireworks, and while some of the middle stories cannot possibly sustain that creative fervor, the final stories clinch the collection with poetic poignancy. In the afterword by Mary McCarthy, she shares, after re-reading the book after many years, the elaborate connections between all the stories. ...more
Sep 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: latin-america
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.
Dec 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011, 2012
Dreamy, funny, and way ahead of its time. Can't wait to read Chromos!
Mar 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Kobe Bryant
Aug 25, 2015 rated it liked it
What is it with Latin Americans and these kinds of books
Ciaran Monaghan
Nov 23, 2017 rated it it was ok
There are some nice post-modern touches that I liked and others might hate - the author cannot control his own characters, they tell their own story whilst the author is 'away' - but overall, this was hard work. I guess most of the stories have a hidden meaning, and from the afterword it is clear some things passed me by, but I got almost nothing from them. I picked this from the shelves as I saw comparisons and references to Marquez and Calvino which I like but this was not as accessible and I ...more
Jun 21, 2017 rated it liked it
A random pick from a display at work. Very strange and unique writing, and, I found out, the only work published by this writer ever!
Sep 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
More interesting in concept than actual execution. The characters trying to escape the author/changing into other characters was brilliant, but the writing itself was rather bland.
Jun 16, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
« previous 1 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Christ Versus Arizona
  • The No World Concerto
  • Palinuro de México
  • In Partial Disgrace
  • Amalgamemnon
  • Aberration of Starlight
  • The Letters of William Gaddis
  • Take Five
  • Larva: A Midsummer Night's Babel
  • The Jade Cabinet
  • Log of the S.S. the Mrs. Unguentine
  • The Golden Age
  • Tripticks
  • Count Julian
  • Vain Art of the Fugue
  • On Elegance While Sleeping
  • The Last Days
  • Omega Minor
See similar books…
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.