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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

     

The Subsidiary

by
Matías Celedón


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

To purchase The Subsidiary



Title: The Subsidiary
Author: Matías Celedón
Genre: Novel
Written: 2012 (Eng. 2016)
Length: 197 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: The Subsidiary - US
La filial - US
The Subsidiary - UK
The Subsidiary - Canada
  • Spanish title: La filial
  • Translated by Samuel Rutter

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Our Assessment:

B : neat idea; limited text

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
TLS . 21/12/2016 Keith Miller


  From the Reviews:
  • "(M)ore of a fine art project than a piece of writing in any familiar sense. (...) The conventions of genre elide into something more mythic" - Keith Miller, 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:

       The Subsidiary is an attractive volume of close to two hundred pages, but the narrative itself probably doesn't add up to a a total of more than two thousand words. The author has chosen an interesting conceit -- or gimmick --, presenting his stories in the form of a series of stamped messages, using the kind of stamps used in offices (URGENT; FIRST CLASS MAIL; etc. -- though also with more elaborate text, of up to about a dozen words).
       The Subsidiary is an office-novel, of sorts -- except that it's not business as usual at this subsidiary: the story opens with a message for all personnel, that the power will be turned off, "between 08:30 and 20:00" -- but that "all personnel must remain at their workstations".
       The narrator emerges soon from these first series of stamps:

I INTERRUPT MY DAILY
TASKS TO MAKE
A RECORD.
       He stamps, in these brief message, what happens -- as, creepily, the outage continues for several June days in 2008 (there are date stamps too, of course).
       The atmosphere is dark and unsettling -- the office on the one hand neat and orderly (as in the stamped text, already much more stable and permanent than anything handwritten or even computer-typed: "To be safe / they went back / to seals / and rubber stamps" the narrator points out), yet now also unmoored. A variety of employees who are, in some way, not whole -- blind or deaf or dumb; missing limbs or appendages -- compounds the feeling.
       The story is a dark one, too, fairly effectively built up and followed through in this minimalist presentation. Still, the conceit/gimmick isn't really exploited to the fullest.
       There are some very clever touches -- a two-page spread stamped randomly all over early on, expressing only: TEDIUM -- and it also works very well when the stamps are more formal, familiar ones, including, for example, a CANCELED stamped across another message. But most of the text is simply text, summary expression in stamped form; Celedón does enough with this -- including in the placement of the stamps on the page, or a change of ink-color, for example -- but it's hard not to feel that he could have done a lot more.
       An arresting, disturbing little tale that relies both too much and too little on its gimmick.

- M.A.Orthofer, 2 September 2016

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Links:

The Subsidiary: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Chilean author Matías Celedón was born in 1981.

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© 2016 the complete review

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