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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Petite Fleur

Iosi Havilio

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To purchase Petite Fleur

Title: Petite Fleur
Author: Iosi Havilio
Genre: Novel
Written: 2015 (Eng. 2017)
Length: 120 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: Petite Fleur - US
Pequeña flor - US
Petite Fleur - UK
Petite Fleur - Canada
Petite fleur (jamais ne meurt) - France
Pequeña flor - España
  • Spanish title: Pequeña flor
  • Translated by Lorna Scott Fox

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Our Assessment:

B : wild and quite entertaining mix

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
La Nación . 24/4/2015 Martín Lojo
Página|12 . 10/5/2016 Fernando Bogado

  From the Reviews:
  • "El rasgo central de esa síntesis es que Pequeña flor nunca pierde su tensión dramática, sostiene el pathos de los personajes y la densidad sensible de su relación amorosa, hasta que, al final de la novela, la incapacidad de matar de José vuelve a la trama de un modo sorprendente que deja el relato en suspenso. La aventura de Havilio en tierra aireana es interesante y explota su evidente talento narrativo, pero la obra del autor de Ema la cautiva y sus gestos ya fatigados también por otros son de tal peso y pregnancia en la literatura del presente que resulta muy difícil leer Pequeña flor lejos de la sombra de su modelo." - Martín Lojo, La Nación

  • "Pequeña flor es un desahogo de escritura: aparentemente escrita de un tirón, compuesta de un solo párrafo que comienza en la primera página y termina en un final ambiguo que hace eclosionar todas las anticipaciones del lector, va visitando diversos géneros que adopta, copia y luego abandona como si se tratase de una escurridiza serpiente que va cambiando la piel, o mejor, de una flor que va renovando sus pétalos. (...) Narrativa y experimental, tal como el autor la define, Pequeña flor es una historia que se lee rápida y que, como un golpe de euforia, lleva apresuradamente todo a un salto al vacío del que no se sabe qué resultará." - Fernando Bogado, Página|12

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 opening of Petite Fleur suggests a transformation-tale: "This story begins when I was someone else". It begins when narrator José's job goes up in smoke, the fireworks factory where he works burning down. Instead of getting another job, it's his wife, Laura, that goes back to work, at her previous employer, a publishing house -- though she is now forced into a lesser and more frustrating position -- while José now: "was forced to become a housewife", looking after their very young child, Antonia, and attending to the other domestic duties.
       It takes a while for José to adapt, but once he throws himself into the household work he finds considerable satisfaction in it. The need to borrow a spade eventually leads him to neighbor Guillermo, who invites him in for a drink and puts on some jazz. At which point, more or less out of the blue, José acts out, impulsively -- and shockingly.
       Just a few pages into his tale, José has done something that's a whole different kind of life-altering, and Petite Fleur would seem to have become a thriller, José now desperate to cover his tracks, and the question of whether his horrific deed will be discovered sure to loom over him until some resolution. Havilio leads the reader nicely to this point -- and then ups the ante considerably, with an even more surprising twist: José is not only not held accountable, he gets to act out again -- and again. It becomes part of his routine, neatly rendering the outrageous act almost innocuous, as Havilio runs with his surreal premise,
       Beyond that, there are marital woes -- Laura gets more distant, and the therapy group she joins, run by a creepy Horacio, hardly helps bridge the growing gap between them. José is frustrated by that, but doesn't really engage too much to try to fix things -- managing also to remain fairly consumed with his own routines, small and large, and Antonia.
       Music and literature figure quite prominently in the story. A musical backdrop helps José to embrace his household duties, while jazz-obsessed Guillermo introduces him to the classics -- including the oft-repeated Sidney Bechet tune that gives the novel its title. The most significant text, meanwhile, is Tolstoy's (odd but wonderful) Resurrection -- while José's also reveals an intense Russophile phase from his past.
       Presented in a single paragraph, Petite Fleur seems to continually cascade forward, but in fact quite a few of the episodes and encounters are quite drawn-out -- though Havilio rarely lingers, often pushing ahead abruptly, to good effect. Petite Fleur is short but bursting with activity and energy -- arguably even too much, as even the shocking premise of José decidedly unusual ability, an inconsequentiality of certain of his actions (no matter how bloodily he goes about it ...) is quickly treated as just another small and almost mundane part of his day-to-day life.
       Petite Fleur is a busy, packed novel, without feeling too crammed. The comparisons to César Aira's short fictions are, ultimately, inevitable -- but Havilio also has a style of his own, and it's certainly an entertaining ride. There's some sense of playing almost too fast and loose; indeed, the story often resembles -- in its uneasy feeling, and uncertainty -- the way José lets adventurous toddler Antonia wander off by herself, confident, mostly, that he'll find her again when he needs to and that she'll come to no harm.
       The mix of outrageous and understated ultimately works quite well, and Petite Fleur is a fairly satisfying -- and nicely disturbing -- read.

- M.A.Orthofer, 8 March 2018

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Petite Fleur: Reviews: Other books by Iosi Havilio under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Argentine author Iosi Havilio was born in 1974.

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© 2018-2021 the complete review

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