The One Before
By Juan Jose Saer
Translated from Spanish by Roanne L. Kantor
The introduction to this book dives right in about the argument (it is a pervasive one in the Argentine literary circuit) about whether or not Saer is even translatable due to his thickly poetic usage of language. It reads like an inner dialogue of a wordy artist, speaking to himself in long trains of thought. It was indeed intimidating to read, and I while I enjoyed the stories in this volume (it’s a collection) I am sure that I am indeed missing something, having read a translation from the Spanish. His writing is highly philosophical by nature, and he was a cinematographer by trade; I found it easier to read when I spoke it out loud or imagined a character speaking the words. The stories delineate out random and typical moments in life, such as sitting in one’s room having a cigarette, a dinner table discussion, a drive, or waiting for someone to show up.
Since the narrative is mostly internal, you do not get much of a sense of place so much as a sense of thought. Saer is one of the more influential authors in Argentina’s recent history, and you get a good idea of the psyche. I don’t think my Saer journey is done, the remaining fields of stone remain unturned. I’m very curious if you have read Saer, particularly in Spanish, and would be grateful for comments below.