eARC Review: The Luminous Novel by Mario Levrero

The Luminous Novel by Mario Levrero, translated by Annie McDermott

Categories: Literary Fiction, Translated

First Publication Date: 2005


‘Perhaps the luminous novel is this thing that I started writing today; just now. Maybe these sheets of paper are a warm-up exercise. […] But it’s quite possible that if I go on writing – as I usually do – with no plan; although this time I know very well what I want to say; things will start to take shape; to come together. I can feel the familiar taste of a literary adventure in my throat.

I’ll take that as confirmation; then; and start describing what I think was the beginning of my spiritual awakening – though nobody should expect religious sermons at this point; they’ll come later. It all began with some ruminations prompted by a dog.’

A writer attempts to complete the novel for which he has been awarded a big fat Guggenheim grant; though for a long time he succeeds mainly in procrastinating – getting an electrician to rewire his living room so he can reposition his computer; buying an armchair; or rather; two: ‘In one; you can’t possibly read: it’s uncomfortable and your back ends up crooked and sore. In the other; you can’t possibly relax: the hard backrest means you have to sit up straight and pay attention; which makes it ideal if you want to read.’

Insomniacs; romantics and anyone who’s ever written (or failed to write) will fall in love with this compelling masterpiece told by a true original; with all his infuriating faults; charming wit and intriguing musings.

I cannot believe I haven’t posted this before – it’s been sitting on my drafts for literally a year and half.

I haven’t written many reviews lately but I had SO many thoughts on this book that I couldn’t not write a review for it. In short, The Luminous Novel is a piece of autofiction about Levrero’s attempt to write the eponymous luminous novel after receiving a grant, and instead procrastinating, keeping the weirdest sleeping schedules, trying (not too hard) to fight his computer games addiction and reading detective novels. His first attempt to write the Luminous Novel started in 1984 and sixteen years later, he isn’t entirely sure he still has it in him to write it. I had not read anything by Levrero before, but now I’m also interested in reading Empty Words, his first work translated into English.

I took some issue with the way Levrero’s life is basically a bunch of women who keep feeding him, making him company, helping him find apartments, giving out prescriptions and doing a whole lot of work for him, which gave me a bit of a weird feeling that he just doesn’t know how to stay alive without women pampering him and doing all the work of keeping him going out of the house, fed and cleaning the place, plus all the emotional work. That, and all the talk about pornography, give me the feeling that in real life I would not have liked him very much.

This is such an incredibly difficult novel to rate; one the one hand I feel like my overall experience and enjoyment were about four stars, and I do love the way this novel added such playfulness and ingenuity into what is in actuality a plotless book. It takes a lot of talent to write 600 pages of rambling and procrastinating and still make it an interesting book. On the other hand, this was not a perfect read for me, and of course I was a bit bored at some points, plus the issues I mentioned in the paragraph above caused me to consider bringing it down to 3 stars. Regardless of the rating, though, if you’re looking for something different (maybe a bit weird, too), if you enjoy autofiction and reading a book just for its writing and narrator and not particularly looking for a plot, for any action or for a Great Uruguayan Novel, then you’ll enjoy this!

Rating: 3 out of 5.


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