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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Sixty-Five Years
of Washington

Juan José Saer

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To purchase The Sixty-Five Years of Washington

Title: The Sixty-Five Years of Washington
Author: Juan José Saer
Genre: Novel
Written: 1986 (Eng. 2010)
Length: 203 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: The Sixty-Five Years of Washington - US
Glosa - US
The Sixty-Five Years of Washington - UK
The Sixty-Five Years of Washington - Canada
  • Spanish title: Glosa
  • Translated by Steve Dolph

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Our Assessment:

B : somewhat long-winded but also interestingly winding ramble of a novel

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Harvard Crimson B- 16/11/2010 Abigail B. Lind
The NY Times Book Rev. A 19/12/2010 Jascha Hoffman

  From the Reviews:
  • "Yet the great strength of The Sixty-Five Years of Washington does not lie in its politics or its people. Rather, it can be found in Saer’s portrayal of the inadequacy of memory, and the flaws in human perception of reality. (...) Saer’s sentences wind on and on, doubling back, interjecting, correcting themselves. The effect is the same rewarding headache that Faulkner’s novels have been known to induce, but it should be noted that the rewards offered by The Sixty-Five Years of Washington are fewer and further between. Saer’s ramblings have none of the economy of Faulker’s prose." - Abigail B. Lind, The Harvard Crimson

  • "In this brilliant novel, the Argentine writer Saer packs several decades of his country’s history into a single hour. (...) With meticulous prose, rendered by Dolph’s translation into propulsive English, Saer’s novel captures the wilderness of human experience in all its variety" - Jascha Hoffman, The New York Times Book Review

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 Sixty-Five Years of Washington nominally covers barely an hour on an October (or maybe November) morning in 1961 (or so). It is divided into three sections, each covering the seven blocks the protagonists walk through the Argentine city of Rosario.
       It begins with Leto deciding to: "let himself get lost in the bright morning" instead of heading straight off to work, and as he begins his aimless stroll he runs into the man known as the Mathematician, who has just returned from Europe and is off on an errand (to drop of a press release from the Chemical Engineering Students Association to the newspapers); they continue down the streets together. One thing they have in common is that they missed the big party at a ranch, celebrating the sixty-five years of Washington -- Jorge Washington Noriega's sixty-fifth birthday. Leto wasn't invited, while the Mathematician couldn't get back in time from Europe.
       Their perambulations are almost arbitrary -- the Mathematician does have a task at hand, but it's a simple, straightforward one -- but the account itself ranges much further, describing both background and also looking ahead to the future, to an Argentina in violent turmoil where Washington is dead, the Mathematician in European exile after his wife was killed in 1974, and Leto has been living in hiding for years and finally finds himself compelled to bite down on the suicide pill he had long carried with him.
       At one point the Mathematician mentions some famous lectures given by Washington:

     Leto has heard about them -- in a fragmentary way, of course, like, in a similar way, everything relating to Washington.
       (Indeed, readers maybe reminded of the central text in Saer's The Investigation, "the famous anonymous dactylogram discovered among Washington's papers" after his death.)
       The Sixty-Five Years of Washington is not so much about the event that the two main characters missed, but rather a larger span of Argentine history -- including the almost two decades after the celebration -- and the imprint it left (and will leave) and consequences it has on a variety of people. The presentation is, to some extent, fragmentary, but Saer seeks to convey that natural sort of layering of events and friends in one's orbit and across time: the here and now, as they walk those twenty-one blocks at the beginning of the1960s is the focal point through which all is refracted, while past and future come into the picture more diffusely.
       In its layerings and digressions The Sixty-Five Years of Washington can feel like an aimless walk; certainly one has to be in the proper mood to go with this sort of winding, sometimes labored flow; if one is, then Saer's novel does offer rewards.

- M.A.Orthofer, 10 September 2010

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The Sixty-Five Years of Washington: Reviews: Juan José Saer: Other books by Juan José Saer under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Argentine author Juan José Saer lived 1937 to 2005.

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© 2010 the complete review

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