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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Jorge Enrique Lage

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To purchase Freeway

Title: Freeway
Author: Jorge Enrique Lage
Genre: Novel
Written: 2014 (Eng. 2022)
Length: 199 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: Freeway - US
La autopista - US
Freeway - UK
Freeway - Canada
La autopista - España
from: Bookshop.org (US)
directly from: Deep Vellum
  • La movie
  • Spanish title: La autopista
  • Translated by Lourdes Molina

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Our Assessment:

B : enjoyable, very freewheeling ride

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Cubahora . 28/2/2022 C.A.A. García

  From the Reviews:
  • "Lo más cercano a La autopista ... es una inyección de adrenalina y drogas noventeras directo en la yugular. (...) La habana de La autopista ... es más parecida a el desierto de Arizona que a una ciudad tropical. Todo lo conocido resulta extraño, como si viniera de lejos y paradójicamente, todo lo foráneo se da con organicidad, como en un terreno fértil donde las referencias extranjeras parecieran ser animales autóctonos del ecosistema habanero. La constante terminología en ingles llega a sentirse como propia y la lengua española se renueva y conquista, se apropia de términos como Breaking News, White Trash, Grandmaster, Therapist y muchísimos otros que plagan las páginas de la novela. Es una obra muy personal lo que le da ese toque único, original, sin caer en una obra de autor, ni tener continuas reseñas biográficas." - Carlos Alberto Alcaide García, Cubahora

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:

       Freeway is, essentially, a road movie, featuring two buddies, the nameless narrator and the man he calls 'El Autista', who was once: "some sort of nerd, a geek, a freak" but: "seems beyond all that now".
       The novel imagines an enormous superhighway that will connect the United States and Cuba, asphalt and concrete that spans:

From horizon to horizon. Many kilometers wide. An infinite number of lanes, exit ramps, and multiple levels with unnecessary loops and complicated intersections.
       It subsumes the Cuban capital:
The Freeway has wiped her off the map. In her place, the endless asphalt that fills our nightmares.
       Central to the novel are the connections between Cuba and the United States, particularly the seepage of (largely pop-)culture from the US to the island. This also -- or particularly -- manifests itself in language, and so in the original there is a great deal of English -- something difficult to reproduce in the translation. An interesting approach translator Lourdes Molina has taken is to Spanish-fy much that was originally presented as English -- beginning with the subtitle of the novel: originally: La autopista: The Movie it becomes Freeway: La Movie. So also then all the original chapters had English-language titles -- 'Breaking News', 'White Trash', 'Fast Forward', 'Girls Gone Wild', etc. -- and Molina presents these as: 'Las Breaking News', 'La White Trash', 'El Fast Forward', 'Las Girls Gone Wild'. The effect is naturally a different one, but certainly highlights the flow of cultures into one another.
       Freeway is also fantasy and fantasia -- not least with Simón Bolívar at one point being revived, Frankenstein's-monster style. So also, for example, the two protagonists release a genie from a bottle of rum and are granted three wishes ("Go ahead: three wishes. You know how this goes"). Typically, however, there are deeper connections: the genie is Roberto Goizueta, the Cuban-born man who once ran Coca-Cola (giving Lage also the opportunity to riff on the disaster that was New Coke.)
       Two of the wishes then are spent on a camera and a car -- just what's needed for a road movie. As the genie suggests:
A freeway changes everything, it transforms everything ... and who's going to document it ? You two: the new directors. You can be the next big stars of independent film.
       (The fantasy stretches far: El Autista suggests the film should be made from a car's perspective (it's a road movie, after all) but the car -- of course it talks ... -- says: "I don't have any perspective".)
       A nice contrast to the ideal of the open roadway here is that so much is static: traffic, unsurprisingly doesn't move, and the two protagonists often stay in place. They even get work -- at a fast-food place, and then the sex shop it is turned into.
       Pop culture is referenced -- notably, Philip K. Dick and Poppy Z. Brite -- and an assortment of real-life figures also pop up, including the now-grown Nevermind-cover baby Spencer Elden, Roman Abramovich, and Eliza Dushku, each becoming part of the action.
       There's some discussion of a book project -- a "Cuban narrative" -- and the list of its features applies just as easily to Freeway: blurred genres, weak narrative unity, animal/human/machine ambiguity, surrealist space-time, and carbonated style ("Its oral quality places it outside the worldwide publishing market"). Yes, Freeway is not your traditional novel but rather more a freewheeling kind of ride -- episodic, though with a few main lines running through it (not least the freeway itself) making for some continuity. Unsurprisingly, too, near the end we're told: "The documentary was (and is) inconclusive".
       It's a neat approach to the connections between Cuba and the US -- with the one largely currently absent one, the physical, here presented as being made real. Of course, in every other respect -- as Lage shows -- the 'freeway' between the two countries has already long existed, with the exchange (lopsided though it is) of culture, language, and commerce deeply entrenched, resurfacing in varied locally adapted form.
       Freeway is not presented as a straightforward, coherent narrative, yet for all the liberties Lage takes it's almost surprisingly accessible, an easy-going cruise along a peculiar kind of lost highway that's certainly enjoyable, both for its amusing invention and its sustained light touch.

- M.A.Orthofer, 28 September 2022

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Freeway: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Cuban author Jorge Enrique Lage was born in 1979.

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© 2022 the complete review

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