Tuesday, August 11, 2020

The Wind that Lays Waste

The Wind that Lays Waste / Selva Almada
trans. from Spanish by Chris Andrews
Minneapolis, MN: Graywolf Press, 2019, c2012.
124 p.
This brief novel, set in rural Argentina, reminded me of Hemingway. Short sentences, brief dialogue, rough weather, macho men and fights in the rain. Unfortunately, I don't like Hemingway. 

In this story, an itinerant preacher and his daughter are brought into contact with a mechanic and his apprentice when their car breaks down on a rural road. The mechanic, Gringo Brauer, and his young assistant Tapioca (actually his son, though the boy doesn't know it) fix the car over the length of a hot, still day, and meanwhile have to listen to Reverend Pearson proselytize and his teenage daughter Leni respond with sarcasm. 

We learn about all their backstories, and the similarities between them, especially Leni and Tapioca. And we see Reverend Pearson becoming obsessed with the "purity" of Tapioca's soul and the resultant desire to take Tapioca away with them when they finally leave. 

Gringo Brauer doesn't say much, but he's not a fan of the ravings of the Reverend. And in the end, after a fist fight in the storm that's broken over them, he doesn't protest much. 

The pathetic fallacy of the storm representing their emotional showdown is a bit over the top, for me, and there are many sections where a sermon of the Reverend's is just inserted. I listened to this one on audio, and while the narrator was very good, and especially talented at performing these sections, I wasn't impressed with them. Why exactly were they there? It didn't seem to serve much purpose other than to reveal the religious mania of the Reverend. They irritated me, and in the end the reader can't really tell what the author thinks of any of the characters or their behaviour or beliefs. 

This one wasn't for me, I guess. I appreciated the way Almada could tell a story with so many constraints -- isolated locale, four characters, restricted range of language -- but I didn't connect with it and wasn't interested in the outcome. 


  1. I just noticed your Canadian Book Challenge link...are you hosting the challenge these days? It's been a few years since I've done that one.

  2. I am not hosting this year but I'm still reading along! Current host is Shonna at Canadian Bookworm if you want to check out her sign up & monthly link up posts :)


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