Loosely based on the life of mathematician Alexander Grothendieck, Carlos Fonesca weaves a Bolaño/Borges/Calvino-esque tale which is both dense and surreal. This is not to say Fonseca doesn’t have his own voice. He clearly does and it’s quite unique.
The writing is superb — lyrical, highly literary. Part political allegory, the narrative is told from a ‘birds-eye view’ allowing the reader to hover unseen above a day in the life of an eccentric mathematician hidden away in the Pyrenees as he races against death to complete his mysterious final project. You hover above the novel’s overlapping narratives nestled in ‘The Colonel’s’ imagination: a woman who paints the same volcano over and over again as well as a Mexican student with whom he exchanges postcards.
There is a lot going on in this work, a lot to explore, to think about and some knowledge of Latin American history may be in order but not essential. It’s the kind of novel that makes you want to delve further into the history it touches upon.
The narratives overlap, and little by little, as we peel away the layers, the true story of ‘The Colonel‘ begins to reveal itself. A highly ambitious novel from a young author destined to go on to do great things. Highly recommended.