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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

     

The No Variations

by
Luis Chitarroni


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase The No Variations



Title: The No Variations
Author: Luis Chitarroni
Genre: Novel
Written: 2007 (Eng. 2013)
Length: 223 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: The No Variations - US
Peripecias del no - US
The No Variations - UK
The No Variations - Canada
The No Variations - India
  • Diary of an Unfinished Novel
  • Spanish title: Peripecias del no
  • Translated and with a Preface by Darren Koolman

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Our Assessment:

B : intriguing if exhausting and elusive (and terribly allusive) literary game(s)

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
La Nacion . 24/6/2007 Pedro B. Rey
TLS . 30/8/2013 Tadzio Koelb


  From the Reviews:
  • "Los muchos personajes, adictos al pseudónimo y al anagrama, van poblando las páginas en sfumato El texto hormiguea con referencias literarias, musicales, cinematográficas, poemas mutilados, que terminan por darle al texto una curiosa y críptica melodía. (...) Lo más notable de este singular libro fluctuante -- y allí es donde puede lamentarse la condición fantasma de la novela entrevista -- radica en los bloques narrativos más extensos." - Pedro B. Rey, La Nacion

  • "The No Variations is writing about writing, the moment of creativity both expressed and scrutinized. The authorís annotations to himself demonstrate the underlying transience of what is eventually presented by novelists and publishers (and reviewers) as practically inevitable. (...) Chitarroni perhaps expects readers to forge their own connections, but there is a danger that they will simply skim the list and move on in anticipation of the "NO" to come. (...) He challenges the novel by refusing to rise to its challenge, rejecting a convincing whole of a story, setting and cast" - Tadzio Koelb, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       In his Preface, translator Darren Koolman helpfully offers some context for this 'Diary of an Unfinished Novel' (so the sub-title -- at least on the cover: to add to the confusion the title page and copyright information call it a 'Journal of an Unfinished Novel': a work in flux indeed ...). As Koolman explains, Chitarroni's original intent was to: "write a hybrid of the preceding two" novels he had published (one of them: "a collection of satirical biographies of writers, both real and fictitious"). Instead, he eventually published this "omnium gatherum" of material that might have gone into such a novel -- and notes also that among Chitarroni's plans for future work is one consisting entirely of annotations to this one.
       The resulting work isn't entirely a variation on negation, as the title might suggest -- though "NO" comes up a lot -- but also not your usual notes-for-a-novel. The proposed novel centers on a literary journal -- "Agraphia (Unwritten) [or Alusiva (Allusive) ?]" -- or an anthology of the writings from it, and/or the writers who contribute to it. Among the writers is Nicasio Urlihrt -- introduced as an anagram (and, yes, it is an anagram of the author's name) and pseudonym in a literary culture full of such false fronts.
       In 1971 Urlihrt won a short-story competition held by the French magazine Alusif / Imposture where one of the goals was for writers to: "adulterate their story with the most references and allusions". The No Variations, then, takes that to the next level: it is a novel of allusive-overkill, built largely, if not entirely on reference and allusion -- though with the occasional bit of (hi)story woven in. What's particularly intriguing and impressive here is the range: among the pivotal texts is D.H.Lawrence's unlikely St Mawr (with Lawrence at one point described by someone as, of all people, "the English Arlt"), and while Chitarroni brings in the obvious -- from: "those hated novels 62: A Model Kit or Revol's Mutaciones bruscas" to: "the pungent brevity of the biforked: Piglia, Aira" -- his references also extend to the far more traditional (William and Henry James, for example) and even texts such as the English translation of Niilo Idman's (1923) Finnish Melmoth the Wanderer-author Charles Maturin-biography. One note suggests simply: "Giordano Bruno, John Florio, Philip Sidney" (and, in case you missed the point or significance, the mention is repeated four pages later: "Again: Giordano Bruno, John Florio, Philip Sidney"). And yet this is also a text that references Stewart Home and: "Good old Julian Cope !"
       It's a game, of (various) sorts, and so, for example, a passage referencing "Kublai Khan's pleasure dome" and Xanadu that closes with the observation: "One hundred and seventy-four Scrabble points !" is followed by the observation: "But then somebody arrived from Porlock."
       At one point the author notes:

For what it's worth, I wasn't trying to write something experimental (much less spontaneous) when I commenced this journal. I was trying to find a structure in the mass of [modest, always modest !] narrative/cyclical intermittencies.
       Of course, that almost-apology is followed by a defiant: "NO" ..... And elsewhere the text reduces to:
Rejected.

Weariness. Self-indulgence.
       Yes, Chitarroni plays all the games -- admitting also:
The loose modality, the essential tolerance of the novel form invites pleonasm.
       And, yes, there is a lot here. Yet it's still novel enough: this isn't a David Markson-like collection of fragments, nor a more typical unfinished self-examination of a novel. Chitarroni continues to surprise, but also grounds enough of the text -- in the idea of the journal Agraphia/Alusiva, in some of the recurring references (right down to St Mawr) -- to provide a sense of stability. It makes for a very rich and often engaging text -- even as it also frustrates (on purpose, no doubt -- but that doesn't make it any less frustrating).
       Readers should be aware of what they're getting themselves into -- but for those who like this sort of thing it's quite rewarding.

- M.A.Orthofer, 26 February 2014

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Links:

The No Variations: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Argentine author Luis Chitarroni was born in 1958.

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© 2014 the complete review

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