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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction



Xurxo Borrazás

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To purchase Vicious

Title: Vicious
Author: Xurxo Borrazás
Genre: Novel
Written: 1994 (Eng. 2015)
Length: 182 pages
Original in: Galician
Availability: Vicious - US
Vicious - UK
Vicious - Canada
Criminal - España (Gallego)
Criminal - España (Español)
  • Galician title: Criminal
  • Translated by Carys Evans-Corrales

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Our Assessment:

B+ : powerful, effective writing

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       There are brutal crimes in Vicious, with the novel even beginning with a chapter narrated from the perspective of a freshly murdered man.
       The novel is set largely in Laracha, near Coruña, in Galicia, in the north-west corner of Spain. Two brothers, Chucho (named after their father), the older, and Daniel live on the family farm they have inherited from their father. Daniel is married and has a young son, also called Daniel, and is the more hardworking and dutiful of the brothers. Chucho went away for a while, but has returned to the fold -- though he is more of layabout and doesn't seem to be contributing very much.
       While a story of murder and the aftermath -- including the killer on the run -- unfolds in Vicious, it doesn't do so strictly chronologically. The forty-six chapters move back and forth in place and especially time, short scenes presented not quite in order rather than a simple continuum: both in presentation and feel Vicious is very cinematic, short, tight scenes cutting back and forth.
       While the book opens with a murder-victim, it immediately turns back a bit before getting to the crime itself again: repeatedly, throughout the novel, Borrazás circles back to the circumstances leading up to the crime. Similarly, the extent of the crime turns out be greater -- and considerably more horrific -- than is originally revealed. Throughout the novel, information also comes from a variety of sources, whether the locals gossiping at the victims' funeral or newspaper article clippings.
       There are Shakespearean echoes throughout the narrative -- right down to the incantation: "Words, words, words" -- and the seething-below-the-surface familial conflict that then erupts with such horrific consequences has a Shakespearean feel. These characters seem fated to live out these destinies, unable to change them -- and the murderer, in particular, appears repeatedly to have no other way out (or forward), as even in distant escape he is driven still further into what amounts to the abyss.
       Borrazás and some of his characters are aware that little is clear-cut in this world, and Vicious is rife with ambiguity:

She was murdered, you know ! Or else things may not be so cut and dried after all.
       There are suggestions of the many layers to the characters' motivations. The murderer, for example, is fleeing not just his heinous deed but much more:
He is fleeing from himself, from cuckoos, from owls, from the night, from memory, from unseen labyrinths of fear and silence, from weariness. Like all labyrinths, these are open doors and lights in the distance that lead to further labyrinths.
       Some of the scenes are revealing, true background that suggests some of the reasons why characters act as they do -- especially the brothers. But Borrazás' presentation tends to the neutral, emphatically showing rather than telling, relying on cinematic method rather than taking advantage of some of the potential of fiction. It makes for a powerful work -- the scenes are often striking, the writing very strong -- of considerable range, but one that also feels somewhat superficial: our emotions are played with, yet we never learn enough about these characters. Indeed, there's little sense of who these people are: Borrazás seems satisfied with defining them almost entirely by their fates.
       Vicious is a strong story and, in many respects (especially the different perspectives that are shown), it is impressively presented, but with depth more implied than real the resonance is ultimately also a bit hollow.

- M.A.Orthofer, 4 August 2015

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Vicious: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Galician author Xurxo Borrazás was born in 1963.

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© 2015 the complete review

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