Juan Jos? Saer?s Scars explores a crime committed by a laborer who shot his wife in the face; or, rather, it explores the circumstances of four characters who have some connection to the crime. Each of the stories in Scars explores a fragment in time when the lives of these characters are altered, more or less, by a singular event.
Juan José Saer’s Scars explores a crime committed by a laborer who shot his wife in the face; or, rather, it explores the circumstances of four characters who have some connection to the crime. Each of the stories in Scars explores a fragment in time when the lives of these characters are altered, more or less, by a singular event.
In Saer’s witty and affecting novel, published in Spanish in 1969, four characters become linked around a grisly killing and the trial of the accused, Luis Fiore, each telling their portion of the story, in four temporally overlapping sections that run from February to June. Ángel lives with a mother who drinks his gin and lounges around half-naked. As a young journalist for La Región, he covers the courts and the weather which, after getting it wrong too often with almanacs, he simply fabricates, fancifully: “the city was oppressed, melted, felt more youthful with spring warmth, and suffered waves of blood in their eye sockets and furious, deafening popping in their eardrums from the atmospheric effects I had created.” Meanwhile attorney Sergio lives only for his baccarat games. Ernesto, the bored judge, views himself as an outsider in a world of gorillas and spends his free time fruitlessly translating The Picture of Dorian Gray. “It’s already been translated so many times that it makes no difference if I make progress or not.... Whole passages come out exactly the same as the versions of the professional translators.” And finally there is Fiore himself, on trial for having shot his wife in the face—twice—after a day of duck hunting. The characters are striking and memorable, their voices deep, comical, and resonant. (Dec.)
Saer (1937–2005), an Argentine expatriate in Paris, is famous for breaking with Latin American magic realism (the commercialism of which he disdained) in the interest of creating a literature "without attributes" that typically shows the rocky trajectory of human life in all its ironic hilarity. This novel, originally published in 1969, studies Luis Fiore, who shoots his nagging wife, Gringa, while out duck hunting, and three other characters connected with the case in some way—a cynical judge who is creating an umpteenth Spanish version of The Picture of Dorian Gray, an insensitive lawyer whose grandfather taught him three fail-safe ways to cheat at cards, and an apprentice journalist who writes weather reports using meteorological equipment he does not even pretend to comprehend. Translator Dolph is the founder of Calque, a journal of literary translation, and has already ably translated Saer's The Sixty-Five Years of Washington. VERDICT Now a veritable classic of Latin American fiction that has been made into a movie with its original Spanish title, Cicatrices, this cerebral exploration of the vulnerability of our lives unfortunately had to wait four decades before appearing in English.—Jack Shreve, Allegany Coll. of Maryland, Cumberland
Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.90 (d)
Meet the Author
Juan José Saer was the leading Argentinian writer of the post-Borges generation. The author of numerous novels and short-story collections (including Scars and La Grande), Saer was awarded Spain’s prestigious Nadal Prize in 1987 for The Event.
Steve Dolph is the founder of Calque, a journal of literature in translation. His translation of Juan José Saer's Scars was a finalist for the 2012 Best Translated Book Award.