Literary Saloon
Site of Review.

Trying to meet all your book preview and review needs.

the Best
the Rest
Review Index




to e-mail us:

support the site

In Association with Amazon.com

In association with Amazon.com - UK

In association with Amazon.ca - Canada



In association with Amazon.it - Italia

the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


The Tenant

Javier Cercas

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase The Tenant and The Motive

Title: The Tenant
Author: Javier Cercas
Genre: Novel
Written: 1989 (Eng. 2005)
Length: 114 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: in The Tenant and The Motive - US
El inquilino - US
in The Tenant and The Motive - UK
in The Tenant and The Motive - Canada
in The Tenant and The Motive - India
Der Mieter - Deutschland
Il nuovo inquilino - Italia
El inquilino - España
  • Spanish title: El inquilino
  • Translated by Anne McLean
  • Published together with The Motive

- Return to top of the page -

Our Assessment:

B : bites off more than it can chew, but good fun

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Financial Times . 25/6/2005
The Observer . 4/6/2005 Amanda Hopkinson
Die Welt . 30/8/2003 Elmar Krekeler

  From the Reviews:
  • "Unfortunately the story's conclusion is as lame as Mario's ankle, but Javier Cercas has some twisty Nabokovian fun with the plot along the way." - Financial Times

  • "Javier Cercas funkelnder Kurzroman ist schiere Literaturliteratur wie sie, nun ja, im Buche steht. Das tut ihrer sehr lustigen Bedrohlichkeit keinen Abbruch." - Elmar Krekeler, Die Welt

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.

- Return to top of the page -

The complete review's Review:

       The Tenant centers entirely around Mario Rota, an Italian lecturer in linguistics at the University of Illinois. The novella begins just before the academic year starts, as Mario has just returned from vacation and is settling back into his routine -- which includes a morning run. He's "a fanatic for order" -- but gets thrown off course when he twists his ankle while jogging. Suddenly, he finds himself out of sorts, and not quite himself, his entire façade threatening to crumble.
       All sorts of annoyances crop up, beginning with his student and girlfriend Ginger's cool reception. But it's David Berkowickz, a prestigious new hire in the department, that is the real thorn in his side. For one, Berkowickz seems to be everywhere he turns: he's rented the apartment across from his, Ginger wants Berkowickz to supervise her thesis, and Berkowickz seems to be muscling him out at the university, leaving him with fewer classes to teach and in danger of losing his job.
       Berkowickz seems friendly enough, but Mario sees in him only an antagonist -- and a very personal one at that: whether on purpose or not, Berkowickz's every move seems to inevitably also usurp Mario's own role and place. The strictly-ordered life Mario has grown accustomed to is frazzling and he is helpless against an onslaught he can't even understand. Mario withdraws more into himself while Berkowickz effortlessly fills his spaces -- ultimately, to a terrifyingly creepy degree.
       A colleague eventually reminds Mario:

At least you'll have realized that sometimes life gets complicated by the silliest little things.
       Like a twisted ankle. Mario's small mishap threw him off balance, and for someone with such a balanced life it proved catastrophic. But it doesn't take the ankle long to heal -- and put him back on course: indeed, things fall very neatly back into place once he's all better again.
       Along the way, it becomes fairly clear where Cercas is leading the reader (and Mario), and the resolution of the story is hardly surprising. It's a weakness to the story, too: an obvious (re)solution, but not wholly satisfyingly convincing: there's not quite enough room for everything that Cercas offered earlier and then this. The passage there, however, is quite good, as Cercas has good fun with Mario's coming undone, as Mario's paranoia about Berkowickz is both justified and self-fulfilling, Mario pushing himself inexorably to the nadir of near-madness he reaches.
       Cercas' novella is a stylish character-portrait of a man very set in his ways and disappointed in love and feeling he has underachieved professionally. It unfolds very nicely -- but Cercas pins too much on the resolution that folds everything neatly pack into place, something he doesn't quite have the tools for.

- M.A.Orthofer, 19 February 2016

- Return to top of the page -


The Tenant: Reviews: Other books by Javier Cercas under review: Other books of interest under review:

- Return to top of the page -

About the Author:

       Spanish author Javier Cercas was born in 1962.

- Return to top of the page -

© 2016 the complete review

Main | the New | the Best | the Rest | Review Index | Links