Tadzio Koelb's Reviews > Call Me Brooklyn

Call Me Brooklyn by Eduardo Lago
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From my review in the TLS:

Call Me Brooklyn moves between Nestór’s voice and Gal’s: Nestór’s recollections of how he met Gal, of the people and places they had in common, alternate with selections from Gal’s notebooks. Many chapters are self-contained vignettes. One explores the life of the recently deceased Sam Evans who, having gone blind, supported himself by exhorting strangers to read a few words from any page in his worn leather bible. Sam would then recite the verse from memory. Gal visited rarely, but Sam always recognised him from just his walk.

This says as much about Lago’s approach to storytelling as it does about Sam: here is a space in which every literary trope – from oral tradition to the canon to genre cliché – is not just accepted, but embraced and celebrated. Call Me Brooklyn uses epistolary sections, excerpts from newspaper articles, and reproductions of Gal’s marginal notes to tell love stories, family dramas, and tales of the unexpected. It also includes regular evocations of Cervantes, patron of literary playfulness...

There is something comforting about the idea of a life in which all one’s friends have total recall and deep insight, in which the minutiae matter – but like all fantasies, it has its limits. The weight of so much significance is eventually overwhelming, and towards the end of the novel the reader can suddenly feel asked to care too much, too often. Emails to Nestór from an anonymous reader of Gal's novel about what she is doing with her day would be boring in life; in the context of Lago’s approach to meaning, they also feel like an imposition.

It’s to Eduardo Lago’s great credit that readers won’t need to know anything about Brooklyn, the Spanish Civil War, or even Cervantes to enjoy Call Me Brooklyn. The novel, presented here in a flawlessly readable translation by Ernesto Mestre-Reed, stands on its own, with no other credentials for enjoyment than a love of storytelling, a love Eduardo Lago himself clearly feels and is eager to share.

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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
December 26, 2013 – Shelved

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