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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Invented Part

Rodrigo Fresán

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To purchase The Invented Part

Title: The Invented Part
Author: Rodrigo Fresán
Genre: Novel
Written: 2014 (Eng. 2017)
Length: 545 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: The Invented Part - US
La parte inventada - US
The Invented Part - UK
The Invented Part - Canada
La part inventée - France
La parte inventata - Italia
La parte inventada - España
  • Spanish title: La parte inventada
  • The first volume in a trilogy
  • Translated by Will Vanderhyden
  • Best Translated Book Award, 2018

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Our Assessment:

B : sprawling, for better and worse

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
ABC A 17/3/2014 Patricio Pron
El Cultural . 28/3/2014 Nadal Suau
El País A 10/3/2014 Enrique Vila-Matas
Le Temps . 27/1/2017 Isabelle Rüf

  From the Reviews:
  • "(E)n la novela hay una vitalidad y una ambición extraordinarias que refutan el diagnóstico (recurrente en el libro) de que la literatura estaría viviendo su final: Fresán ha escrito una obra de una potencia tal que permite pensar que esta sobrevivirá (a las especulaciones editoriales, a la proliferación de textos y de autoridades que se produce en la red y a un tiempo cuyos autores parecen haberse resignado a la producción de seudoliteratura para seudolectores) si textos como este continúan siendo escritos. La parte inventada es una novela excelsa en la que se alternan una joven loca (.....) La parte inventada ofrece al lector de Rodrigo Fresán lo que este espera y un poco más" - Patricio Pron, ABC

  • "Hay un héroe magnífico en esta novela: la imaginación, la ficción como un hombrecito de hojalata con ruedecitas y una maleta llena de cosas. Un juguete que atraviesa el desierto de nuestro mundo técnico que ha convertido el ocio en el mero reverso de la cadena productiva, y que nos obliga a hacer el lerdo colgados de una pantalla de móvil o de libro electrónico (cuyo frenazo evidente en el mercado reduce, lástima, su apostura como Lord Sith). Ese es el Reverso Oscuro que pone gruñón a Fresán, y los días pares yo estoy de acuerdo con él. Pero literariamente, es al hablarnos de ello cuando el autor escribe con recursos menos deslumbrantes o imaginativos. Twitter y otras hierbas digitales o postureras no le sientan demasiado bien a Fresán, ni siquiera como adversarios" - Nadal Suau, El Cultural

  • "Al ser bien cierto que los libros que verdaderamente me interesan son aquellos que el autor ha comenzado sin saber de qué trataban y los ha terminado en la misma penumbra, La parte inventada ha despertado toda mi atención y admiración. Hay tiniebla en él, pero acoge luces en su interior, porque es brillante su prosa dirigida a lectores de antes; prosa que arde al modo de un cohete que como una araña explotara entre las estrellas y que incendia en su afán por extremar el estilo, la voz propia, y así de paso, como quien no quiere la cosa, maniobrar como si nada se hubiera colapsado en el mundo editorial y Nabokov siguiera, imperturbable, moviendo alfiles en los atardeceres de Montreux, es decir, se pudiera seguir escribiendo como en los buenos tiempos." - Enrique Vila-Matas, El País

  • "Le livre est traversé par un lamento décliné sur tous les tons. Tout comme Philip Roth, Fresán déplore la fin de la lecture, vitupère contre le téléphone portable, les tweets, les SMS, les tablettes, les livres électroniques qui empêchent de se concentrer sans bondir ailleurs. Mais contrairement à l’Américain, il ne déclare pas avoir perdu la partie." - Isabelle Rüf, Le Temps
  • "A wonderfully inventive, intricate and entertaining novel on what it means to be a writer, and a reader." - John Banville, The Guardian (29/12/2017)

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 Invented Part is the first volume in a a trilogy (followed by The Dreamed Part (2017, Eng. 2019) and The Remembered Part (2019, Eng. forthcoming). It features a protagonist identified (only) as The Writer -- or at least not identified by name; elsewhere, he is The Boy (the writer in childhood) or The Lonely Man, for example (but not The Young Man -- that's someone else ...). The Invented Part isn't a novel purely of types and platonic ideals -- The Writer's sister, while also referred to as The Writer's Mad Sister, is given a name, for example: Penelope -- and in its detail, especially about The Writer (in his various incarnations -- or perhaps more accurately, phases of his life) it is exhaustively personal, but in identifying many of the characters (and especially that central one) by part rather than person Fresán pushes the reader towards considering the universal rather than particular -- while all the while also being so particular: The Writer is an especially well-defined and -formed character, even if we don't know his name.
       The novel is presented in what are practically blocks of narrative, in sections that often have long and elaborate headings (e.g. 'Life After People, or Notes for a Brief History of Progressive Rock and Science Fiction'), a focus on different stages of The Writer's life and episodes surrounding him (in which he does not necessarily feature prominently). It begins with a (relatively short) section on his childhood, the character here: The Boy, who already discovers the magic of: "opening a book, plunging inside, the freest of falls, closing the cover on reality, behind him now not in front, and opening his eyes". It continues with a documentary project, The Young Man conceiving a film about The Writer -- at a point when he is fully formed (i.e far removed from when he was The Boy), a career already behind him --, a literary figure The Young Man admires who has transcended simply being 'The Writer' and comes with a nice new air of mystery to him: he isn't:

just a dead/disappeared writer now. Really now, The Writer is something far stranger still: a cross between a scientific aberration and atmospheric phenomenon to which many periodicals and newspapers now devote daily space and attention on par with what they devote to meteorological forecasts and horoscopes. Because The Writer has mutated into a strange kind of climatological-astrological omen.
       Here, as in much of the novel, The Writer is noteworthy for his absence rather than presence; he figures at best peripherally in any action -- but is not a vacuum: he remains subject and focus. So, for example, in trying to document his life, The Young Man, and The Young Woman he works with, piece together the traces they can collect of The Writer -- beginning, for example, by filming scenes of a library. The Writer is predominantly a literary being -- a writer and a reader (two sides of the same coin: "He'd become a writer because it was the closest thing to being a reader") -- and is seen and considered primarily as such.
       Another section tells some of Penelope's story, specifically her time with her new in-laws, when new husband Maximiliano Karma become a comatose "husband-in-suspension" at the culmination of their excessive wedding celebrations. Penelope becomes part of the world unto its own that is the Karma-family's, in an entertaining (and quite extended) social-pathological study -- a world very different from (any of) The Writer's, not least because the Karmas have no idea what to do with books. The Writer here is at best a loose presence, an awareness and observer; presented in passages printed in a lighter font to differentiate them from the rest of the text:
And here he follows her, her brother, who, not dead but yes disappeared, part of the air and everywhere, watches her not on a TV screen of the netherworld, but as if he were reading her; as if she were a character in a book, that book he never managed to write but that he can't stop thinking about or wondering about or playing with sometimes complex and sometimes not so complex possible choices
       Other sections offer a more introspective: "Portrait of a Lonely Man in the emergency room of a hospital", or an extended riff on F.Scott Fitzgerald (and Zelda, and acquaintances (and character-inspirations) Sara and Gerald Murphy) -- even as Fresán riffs on Fitzgerald, and the Murphys, and the book they inspired (and ties them all in with his stories) repeatedly throughout the novel. Other art and artists, recurring in the text, also get concentrated attention in places -- Pink Floyd, for example -- with specific books and authors repeatedly mentioned in various contexts along the way, both foundation and reference points.
       So what's the deal with The Writer ? Well, in Geneva there's that Large Hadron Collider, "the accelerator and collider of particles", the place where forces smash to detect the so-called 'god particle' (the Higgs boson), and The Writer is drawn to that idea:
He, who had grumbled so much about new technologies, letting himself go to come back changed, inside a supreme machine, just by pressing a button. An epic form of suicide. An immortal death. Ceasing to be and departing in order to return, victorious, as a destructive and righteous force.
       What leads him to seek out taking such an extreme step ? The modern world, and what has become of the literary, basically. Which is what the novel is, fundamentally (and through and through) about: The Invented Part is a lament for what has become of literature (and the appreciation thereof), and an attempt to reclaim and revive it.
       Invited to a writer's festival he finds:
There, in front of everyone, at one of those sharp-cornered roundtables on the future of the book, where what they were actually talking about was the book of the future: the packaging, the model, the newest way to keep selling the, for most publishers, increasingly rambling -- like a pilgrim without a shrine -- idea that reading has some significance and reason to exist.
       Earlier, already, at another stage he'd recognized as much:
     There was a time, thinks The Lonely Man, when people related to books like that. 2 x 1. What the writer gave you and what you did with it inside your head. Now, not so much, less and less: it's not the content that matters, it's the packaging. The device. The latest model. Little mirrors and colored glass. Reading on it all the time, more than ever, but in homeopathic doses. And writing more than ever but, also, writing more about nothing
       Now: "There was no place in the history of literature for a career like Vladimir Nabokov's anymore"; instead, it's the likes of IKEA (as The Writer tags him -- type, again, rather than name), the hilariously imagined: "next Official Great Writer" who fits himself in the modern social media-dominated age so well. And still The Writer holds out hope; a late riff still imagines what a book could be, suggesting still so much potential .....
       In considering the documentary he plans, The Young Man finds: "The Writer has become, yes, a good story". Certainly, he's an interesting figure, a literary figure -- defined by his writing and reading (and some listening (music) and watching (film/TV) as well) -- but increasingly at odds with a fast-changing world in which the very nature of reading and the relationship to literature has shifted. His hoped for extreme solution -- to become the god particle -- is (appropriately) Quixotic -- yet of course The Invented Part is itself meant to demonstrate what literature can still do and what a book can still be.
       The Invented Part is a sprawling narrative, but there's a firm and reässuring foundation to it in its many wide-ranging, repeated cultural references and the intricate connections Fresán draws between them and his stories. It's also hard to forget that this part of a larger work, a trilogy of such fat books, and presumably one has to withhold judgment some until the whole has been tackled: on its own, The Invented Part impresses but does not completely satisfy. It is intriguing -- and much of it is a wildly entertaining reading high-wire tour (Fresán weaves in his associations and cultural touchstones with dizzying aplomb) -- but does not feel complete, an exercise -- at times virtuoso -- that still is also too clearly building-block.

- M.A.Orthofer, 24 December 2019

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The Invented Part: Reviews: Other books by Rodrigo Fresán under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Rodrigo Fresán was born in Argentina and now lives in Spain.

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© 2019-2021 the complete review

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