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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Álbum de familia

Emilio Lascano Tegui

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Title: Álbum de familia
Author: Emilio Lascano Tegui
Genre: Novel
Written: 1936
Length: 223 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: Album de famille avec portraits d'inconnus - France
Familienalbum mit Bildnissen von Unbekannten - Deutschland
  • Con retratos de desconocidos
  • Álbum de familia is not yet available in English

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Our Assessment:

B+ : nice idea, nicely told

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
FAZ . 16/9/2000 Paul Ingendaay

  From the Reviews:
  • "Ohnehin gibt es mit diesem Buch ein Problem, das sich erst enthüllt, wenn man es gelesen hat und einige Wochen später wieder in die Hand nimmt: Man kann sich an kaum etwas erinnern. Bei allem anekdotischen Reiz fehlt das notwendige Bißchen epischer Leim, um die vielen Dutzend Figuren zusammenzuhalten, was andererseits schade ist, denn jede einzelne Seite verströmt Eleganz und viel Ausgelassenheit." - Paul Ingendaay, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

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:

       Álbum de familia is a collection of family-albums, the stray stories of strangers and their ancestors. The premise to the novel is an amusing one: Michael Bingham is one of the few survivors of a catastrophic train accident in 1900, and he is commissioned by an insurance company to write a report on the victims -- a task he throws himself into with complete dedication. When, after twenty-on years of painstaking research and writing he shows up to deliver his final report he discovers the insurers went bust ... twenty years earlier. Tossing the papers away in shock and despair, the ones the fictional editor of this volume could save are the ones collected here, six case-studies.
       Bingham's reports are a hunt for causes, of what might have determined and shaped fate leading to the accident. He burrows deep into the past of the victims, considers ancestries and history, and tries to piece together a larger picture (of which only part -- these six reports -- remains).
       It is, of course, an exercise in futility: what happened was an accident. But Bingham dedicates himself to his task, and does build up a huge edifice of connection and history. His portraits, of both victims and their ancestors, go off on wild tangents, but also make connections, and he concerns himself both with the small details of the victims' behavior on the train -- which he was, in part, able to observe personally, of course -- as well as the lives of their distant relatives.
       It's an amusing idea, and Lascano Tegui's elegant, charming style is perfect for the vignettes that make up the bulk of the book. The Borgesian touches are nice, too -- but Lascano Tegui doesn't quite have Borges' penetrating bite in following through an idea to its absolute ends, with all its consequences. The stories and portraits here remain a bit too light, a bit too random and, aside from the pleasure of their telling, trivial.
       Lascano Tegui's prose is a pleasure to read -- there's an understated sort of elegance, a natural casualness to it -- and there's a good deal of imaginative variety here. Álbum de familia is an enjoyable game, but the playfulness is perhaps too dominant for it to truly resonate. Still: good fun.

- M.A.Orthofer, 8 January 2011

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Reviews: Other books by Emilio Lascano Tegui under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Argentine author Emilio Lascano Tegui -- who called himself a 'Viscount', though he wasn't -- lived 1887 to 1966.

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