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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Rodrigo Rey Rosa

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To purchase Severina

Title: Severina
Author: Rodrigo Rey Rosa
Genre: Novel
Written: 2011 (Eng. 2014)
Length: 92 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: Severina - US
Severina - US (Spanish)
Severina - UK
Severina - Canada
Severina - India
Severina - France
Severina - Italia
Severina - España
  • Spanish title: Severina
  • Translated and with an Introduction by Chris Andrews

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Our Assessment:

B+ : very nice little bookish story

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Publishers Weekly A 20/1/2014 .
TLS . 5/9/2014 Jessica Loudis
World Lit. Today . 3-4/2015 J.M.Livesey

  From the Reviews:
  • "Rey Rosa's book is both precious and precise. Its intense dreams, aphorisms, and literary lists are best read in one sitting. (...) (W)hile it would be impertinent to steal a copy, it is hard not to be tempted to grab a copy of this slim, terrific book." - Publishers Weekly

  • "Severina contains a romance, a death, and a shocking moment of stolen identity, yet we’re never quite sure how much to believe. In the end, the bookseller is no more familiar than he was at the beginning, though we’ve witnessed him fall prey to seduction and a remarkable sleight-of-hand. For readers of Rey Rosa, these experiences will be pleasantly familiar." - Jessica Loudis, Times Literary Supplement

  • "The twists and turns of the incredible story leave the reader awestruck, waiting for some kind of cataclysm to befall the lovers. Rodrigo Rey Rosa has set this short piece in his homeland of Guatemala, yet there is little to suggest that locus other than the suggestion of pervasive sociopolitical difficulties, which the narrator alludes to but does not fully explain." - Janet Mary Livesey, World Literature Today

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 narrator of Severina is a: "bookseller with literary aspirations", a part-owner of La Entretenida, a bookstore in Guatemala he opened with some friends in the basement of a shopping center. Severina -- Ana Severina Bruguera Blanco is the full name she goes by -- is a mysterious young woman who occasionally appears at the store -- and who usually steals some books when she's there. The narrator catches her, but can't bring himself to come down very hard on her, already bewitched.
       The narrator's obsession with her only deepens. He goes so far as to rent a room at the Pensión Carlos where she is staying (with an old man who might be her father), but even as he engages with her, much about her remains elusive.
       A relationship of sorts does develop. They are both in their different ways bookish, as you can tell from the way they speak about them -- "Books are quivering, murmuring creatures", the narrator feels -- and the way they obsess about them. And she has even visited the holiest of holies: Borges' library, in 1999 (convincingly noting: "His widow wouldn't let anyone in, but she was in Geneva at the time").
       One way of trying to 'figure out' the enigmatic figure that is Severina is for the narrator to keep a list of the books she steals (something she keeps doing), as if that might provide a key to her identity. Certainly, books are fundamental and essential to both of them.
       The narrator's life becomes more intertwined with Severina's -- and the old man's -- which also causes complication, and eventually threatens to cost him a huge pile of his own books. Severina, however, still has a trick or two up her sleeve.
       It all makes for a nice little tale of passions -- human and literary -- and some decent mystery/adventure, too, what with the investigative work involved, the thefts, the lies and misdirects -- and the body, stealthily buried ... (yes, there's a body). There's Borgesian charm to the story, but Rey Rosa doesn't burrow his characters into books the way Borges might: the literary layer is light enough that it can be appreciated by those who miss the allusions (beginning with the name of the bookstore -- the title of a Cervantes play (translated as, for example, The Diversion), itself full of deceptions and upended expectations) but then also offers a richer reading to those who follow the book-trail.
       Severina is a satisfying, nicely crafted, and entertaining small tale of bookish obsessions, recommended to all who like a bit of clever literary fun.

- M.A.Orthofer, 20 Ferbuary 2014

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Severina: Reviews: Rodrigo Rey Rosa:
  • Profile by Ronald Flores
  • Q & A with Francisco Goldman in Bomb
Other books by Rodrigo Rey Rosa under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Guatemalan author Rodrigo Rey Rosa was born in 1958.

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© 2014-2023 the complete review

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