Dr. Khusi Pattanayak
a) Is a tantalising literary experiment that engages in a complex interactive game with the reader where new meanings are constantly unearthed to create a unique story.
b) Is little over a hundred pages, divided into five sections consisting of 90 questions in total. The last page contains an OMR sheet where one can mark the most accurate response. The playful structure of the novel is inspired from the Chilean Academic Aptitude Test question paper that one had to undertake to pursue higher education (though this test format is fairly obsolete now). The Spanish novel was first published in 2014 as Facsímil. The English translation by Megan McDowell was published in 2016.
c) Intricately weaves fiction and history to create a quirky world where the ghosts from the tormenting past make their presence felt on the present milieu. One can clearly see that the liberated generation is still reeling under the shadows of Augusto Pinochet (the Chilean dictator). It returns to haunt in the most unexpected fashion, for example in the form of exam practice that only reminds one of the authoritarian codes of conduct. The novel’s continuous insistence on elimination and appropriation relies on a sense that the one is blessed with a fine sense of judgement, much like the question paper that one is attempting to solve. Zambra suggests that men are not inherently born with logic, they are more spontaneous; but a structured system teaches them to critically form an accurate sense of meaning. This search for the right answer fills our lives with anxiety, whether it is the examinee in the exam hall or the reader going through Multiple Choice or individuals struggling to make decisions on a regular basis.
d) Relies on few comprehensions, each longer than a page, to build the climax. The passages possess the potentiality to stand on their own as independent narratives. But since the readers are already acquainted with the fragmented versions of three points of view – a youngster’s cheating in exam, a bad marriage , a father’s dubious life decisions – the ending does give a sense of logical coherence , an idea that the author is both ‘eliminating’ and ‘choosing’. The novel, by the end of it, not only redefines the idea of readers as authors but also challenges the notion of reviewing an avant-garde work of art.
29th January 2022
DR. KHUSI PATTANAYAK is a PhD in English Literature with over 13 years of professional experience in both academia and industry. A polyglot, she has a number of published books, articles and translations to her credit. A cine-scholar, she was featured in TEDx Thought Break. KP has swashbuckled from Middle-Earth to Earthsea while enjoying Márquez , Kafka, Neruda , Seth, Christie in no specific order . She is the Patronus Charm herself. She is Editor of The Pine Cone Review.