The Things We’ve Seen

Agustín Fernández Mallo

$43

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In The Things We’ve Seen, his most ambitious and accomplished novel to date, Agustín Fernández Mallo captures the strangeness and interconnectedness of human existence in the twenty-first century. A writer travels to the small uninhabited island of San Simón, used as a Franquist concentration camp during the Spanish Civil War, and witnesses events which impel him on a wild goose chase across several continents. In Miami, an ageing Kurt Montana, the fourth astronaut who secretly accompanied Neil Armstrong and co. to the moon, revisits the important chapters in his life, from serving in the Vietnam War to his memory of seeing earth from space. In Normandy, a woman embarks on a walking tour of the D-Day beaches with the goal of re-enacting, step by step, another trip taken years before. Described as the novel David Lynch and W. G. Sebald might have written had they joined forces to explore the B-side of reality, The Things We’ve Seen is a mind-bending novel for our disjointed times.

‘But there are no limits to the conjecture a person can engage in, no matter what their daily reality. Already, in Book I, Mallo has demonstrated a wildly discursive, apparently disconnected form of narrative (including retelling a story by Jeffrey Eugenides) which continues here, culminating in a series of messages from the former astronaut’s deceased mother found in the vomit of George Bush snr. Yes! Mallo’s imagination never falters. To stay with him means loosening all limitations we might wish to impose on a text. The reward is an audacious adventure … This is, indeed, a dream of a book.’

— Declan O’Driscoll, Irish Times

‘Echoes, implosions and coincidences soon make us feel we are circulating in a single space-time of displacements and substitutions. Shapes, for example, repeat in different scales or contexts: the reservoir in Central Park has the outline of Iberia. The most bravura example of this form of paranoia – signs everywhere – is given to a Dalí avatar who establishes a connection between the Twin Towers, the twin girls in the corridor of The Shining, the two columns of the pause icon on a screen, and (the narrator’s later input) a line in one of Lorca’s New York poems. It stays with you.’

— Lorna Scott Fox, New Left Review

‘[A] fascinating experimental [novel which evokes] the ways the past is layered upon the present by a narrative technique of juxtaposition and adumbration—by adjoining or stacking together starkly different stories. The Things We’ve Seen is preoccupied with the sensation of multiplicity … Echoes connect the stories’ portrayals of isolation and unexpected collisions, but nothing is straightforward. Mr. Mallo has said that he was inspired by David Lynch and Salvador Dalí, and there is undoubtedly a surreal, unconscious quality to the motifs that defies interpre­tation… a unique work that captures an uncanny aspect of the lonely but bewilderingly overpopulated contemporary experience.’

— Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal

$43

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Categories – General Fiction

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