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5.0 2
by Jose Manuel Prieto, Esther Allen (Translator)

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Now in paperback, José Manuel Prieto’s Rex is a sexy, zany, and sophisticated literary game rife with allusions to Proust and Borges, set in a world of wealthy Russian expats and mafiosos who have settled in western Europe.
J. is a young Cuban man who, thanks to his knowledge of Russian and Spanish, has become the tutor of the young son of a


Now in paperback, José Manuel Prieto’s Rex is a sexy, zany, and sophisticated literary game rife with allusions to Proust and Borges, set in a world of wealthy Russian expats and mafiosos who have settled in western Europe.
J. is a young Cuban man who, thanks to his knowledge of Russian and Spanish, has become the tutor of the young son of a wealthy Russian couple living in Marbella, in the part of southern Spain that the Russian mafia has turned into its winter quarters. As J. attempts to give the boy a general grade-school education by exclusively reading him Proust, he also becomes the personal secretary of the boy’s father, Vasily, an ex-scientist that J. suspects is on the run from gangsters. Vasily’s wife, Nelly, a seductive woman always draped in mind-boggling quantities of precious stones, believes the only way to evade the gangsters is an extravagant plan linking Vasily to the throne of the czars.
Rex is an unforgettable achievement: an illusory, allusive gem of a novel that confirms José Manuel Prieto as one of the most talented writers of his generation.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

A Proust-worshipping narrator falls into the dangerous world of the Russian mob in this novel run amok by the author of Nocturnal Butterflies of the Russian Empire. In Spain's fashionable Costa del Sol, the narrator takes on the tutorship of young Petya, the son of wealthy Vasily and Nelly. Petya's education amounts to lessons derived entirely from Proust, considered by his tutor to be the ultimate source for all wisdom. Meanwhile, the tutor is exposed to the staggering wealth and suspicious circumstances of the household: Nelly parades around wearing enormous diamond necklaces, Vasily reels his new employee into his shady dealings, and sinister servant Batyk lurks in the background. Before long, it becomes apparent that Vasily and Nelly are involved in the manufacture and sale of fake jewels and are on the run from the violent Russian gangsters they've swindled. The narrator is a perfect Proustian naïf, steeped, as is the book itself, in the rich and allusive depth of world literature and language, but also deeply innocent and foolish. It's painfully intelligent if overwhelming. A cunning Proust scholar could tease a thesis out of this. (Apr.)

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Library Journal

Prieto's Russian-speaking Spanish narrator is hired to tutor Petya, the 11-year-old son of émigré Russian Vasily, an ex-physicist-turned-gemologist, and his attractive but flashy wife, Nelly. Following a scheme concocted by the butler, Vasily swindles two Russian mobsters out of $6.5 million in fake diamonds; on the lam to avoid the mobsters' revenge, he moves to a Marbella villa. An even more harebrained scheme involves trying to pass Vasily off as heir to the Russian throne (hence the title). The narrative moves forward primarily via the one-sided conversation the narrator conducts with Petya. In keeping with the tutor's use of Proust's Remembrance of Things Past as the sole instrument of pedagogy, Prieto relies on the gimmick of referring from Proust to his own narrative throughout and also quotes other writers, so that the text becomes a guessing game as to textual origins. More than a gangster thriller (and it won't appeal much to traditional readers of that genre), this work comments on the nature of narrative art and of writing, conveying its idea in a somewhat stuffy, cerebral style. Cuban-born Prieto, who dealt with a similar theme in National Butterflies of the Russian Empire, has written a desultory, occasionally obscure text that will appeal to discerning readers, especially those familiar with Proust.
—Lawrence Olszewski

Kirkus Reviews
Another Nabokovian puzzle shrouded in carefully maintained ambiguity, from the acclaimed author of the Nocturnal Butterflies of the Russian Empire (1999). The book is divided into 12 "commentaries" narrated by J., a young Cuban intellectual employed by wealthy Russians Vasily and Nelly to tutor their preadolescent son Petya in their lavish home on Spain's moneyed and prestigious Costa del Sol. They initially balk when J. explains his pedagogical strategy: to immerse his young pupil in the teeming world of In Search of Lost Time. Marcel Proust's multivolume masterpiece, J. believes, "is a machine for thinking, the greatest compendium of instructions ever written." He persuades Petya's imperious parents and is permitted to proceed. Meanwhile, mounting evidence suggests that the many diamonds with which the beautiful Nelly decorates herself are counterfeit jewels that she and Vasily create and illegally market to the dangerous displeasure of Russian Mafiosi, several of whom winter in this very Spanish demi-paradise. J. surmises that a pair of Russian thugs, Kirpich and Reketa, are pursuing the family. Still, anyone who imagines himself a commentator on ancient texts and icons, as J. does, should realize that objects and especially people are not necessarily what they appear to be. As mirrors reveal other mirrors, angles and perspectives, J. is enlisted in Nelly's delirious plot to "prove" that Vasily, a descendant of the Romanovs, is the rightful Emperor of Russia. J.'s fantasies collapse, and his imaginative complicity haunts him, while suggestive literary allusions-to H.G. Wells, Dostoevsky, Kafka and Shakespeare, as well as Nabokov and of course Proust-simultaneously explicate and deepenthe mysteries. A shimmering Faberge egg of a novel, so hermetic and tightly knit that many readers may fall by the wayside. But those who loved the inspired legerdemain of Prieto's debut should not miss it.

Product Details

Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

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Rex 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Name: Saibrine (pronounved Say-breen) • Fyedka • Nickname: Bre (pronounced Bree) • Gender: Female • Age: 16 • Positions: Member? • Eyes: Light blue • Skin: Normal, a bit pale from lack of sun exposure • Hair: Light dirty blond with a dark purple highlight • Attire: A long button up jacket (only when outside), skinny jeans, a dark purple and blavk striped longsleeve shirt, and black fur boots • Personalities: Friendly to friends, intelligent, clever, brave, and angry inside • History: She grew up in the streets of Russia, that back alleys. She moved here from America when she was 3, but never picked up th accent. ••• Name: Sasha Fyedka • Nickname: none • Gender: Male • Age: 17 • Position: Member? • Eyes: light brown • Skin: Pale • Hair: Brown and longish (bangs) • Attire: A red t-shirt, jeans, sneakers, and a puffy coat when outside only • Personalities: Awkward, worried about what people think of him, smart, witty, dangerous • History: Same as Saibrene's •
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
NAME: Sabrina Cloud•••AGE: classified (T.T)•••GENDER: Female•••Appearance: blonde hair, blue eyes and fair skin. Wears a long coat all of the time to hide her white feather wings. Casual blue jeans, and a red short sleeved tee.•••