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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction



Beauty Salon

by
Mario Bellatín


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

To purchase Beauty Salon



Title: Beauty Salon
Author: Mario Bellatín
Genre: Novel
Written: 1999 (Eng. 2009)
Length: 63 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: Beauty Salon - US
Salón de belleza - US
Beauty Salon - UK
Beauty Salon - Canada
Salon de beauté - France
Der Schönheitssalon - Deutschland
  • Spanish title: Salón de belleza
  • Translated by Kurt Hollander

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Our Assessment:

B- : too insubstantial

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
FAZ . 23/10/2001 Florian Borchmeyer


  From the Reviews:
  • "Warum diese Hemmung, die Dinge beim Namen zu nennen? Fast entsteht der Verdacht, auf diesem Weg solle das Produkt auch für Leser konsumierbar werden, die ein Buch über Aids niemals in die Hand nähmen. Das ist künstlerisch wenig überzeugend (...) Wenn die Wirklichkeit stärker ist als ihre fiktionale Überhöhung, müssen sich Literaten den einmal bei Büchner formulierten Vorwurf gefallen lassen, sie vergäßen ihren Herrgott über seinen schlechten Kopisten." - Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Florian Borchmeyer

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:

       Beauty Salon is barely even of novella-length; it also does not tell much of a story. The nameless narrator is transvestite who ran a beauty salon but in recent yeas has converted it into "the Terminal", a place where terminally ill men close to death (from an unidentified but AIDS-like plague) spend their final days. In Beauty Salon he reflects on his undertaking -- and on his own fate (as he too has come down with the terrible illness).
       The narrator emphasizes:

the beauty salon is not a hospital or a clinic, it's simply the Terminal.
       He calls those who come to die there guests -- and he accepts no women, and no men who are still relatively healthy. It is a place only for those who have nothing, and nowhere else to go, and who are nearing the end.
       The narrator decorated his beauty salon with aquaria, but from the beginning he's had trouble keeping any fish alive in them. In his narrative he recounts his various efforts to raise a variety of fish-species, as well as his work at the Terminal, which he largely runs by himself. Death and decay prevail, even in this place formerly devoted to beautifying; indeed, death and decay cannot be kept at bay, by any means.
       Still, the narrator harbors some illusions --and worries, for example, what will become of the place once he succumbs to the illness. He's already had offers from institutions offering help, but disdains their ulterior motives -- and worries:
The function of the place will be perverted. A place that was designed strictly for beauty will now become a place dedicated to dying.
       Yet this isn't entirely convincing, as that transformation seems already to have occurred -- under his own guidance.
       The material suggests much allegorical intent: the narrator himself is, after all, 'perverted' in a way -- or at least considered that way by many. His homosexuality also manifests itself in dressing up in women's clothes (though he's largely given that up by now), the embrace of an entirely different reality (and an entirely artificial form of what is presumably meant to be beauty) -- but this embrace of beauty also proves fatal (since -- so it is implied -- the ravaging disease attacks homosexuals in particular). Bellatín also surely means to suggest that what the narrator used to do -- run a beauty salon -- is, ultimately, simply the flip side of the same coin as what he is doing now: the artificial prettifying was just another form of trying to keep death at bay, and both are futile: the end is always nigh.
       And then there are the fishes -- some of which are quite nasty pieces of work, and all of which have trouble surviving.
       Yet for all these suggestions, Beauty Salon remains more a dank work than one with much power. There is not much of a story-arc here, and the narrator only provides some background information; neither the reality of the beauty salon (nor, really, the Terminal), much less his own life are adequately presented. (There is, arguably, enough about the fish.) Quite possibly this was a more affecting work in 1999, when it was first published; in 2009 an AIDS-novel(la) -- and that is surely what this is -- has got to offer more.
       Intriguing in its ideas, Beauty Salon falls very, very short as a work of fiction (in no small part because it is so short).

- M.A.Orthofer, 17 August 2009

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Links:

Beauty Salon: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Mexican author Mario Bellatín was born in 1960.

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© 2009 the complete review

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