This novel is about a woman, an art historian, an art lover, who is reminiscing about her life. As an art lover, much of this reminiscing revolves around her favourite painters and anecdotes from their lives.
There is no plot, but this novel is far from boring, in fact it is hard to put down once you start.
The anecdotes and tales are told in no particular order, one story about a painter may lead to some completely different memory from the woman’s past. Although arbitrary, all these stories and memories coalesce to give the reader the story of the woman’s life. However, this is done slowly, in fragments, and again, arbitrarily. This structure works beautifully, one story will provide insight on the woman’s past and then segue somehow seamlessly into a completely different story. As you get deeper into the novel you start to “see” the woman, her face slowly forming like a portrait being painted. Her likes, her dislikes, her fears, her perceptions. Perception of not just the art, but life, is a theme that runs through the novel, just like the stream of memories which form the narrative. How perceptions can change, and how you can find your perception of an event in the past changing upon reflection.
This novel is quite short in length, but seems deceptively longer because it is simply packed with so many stories. Stories which cover a large swath of topics and history. I found myself wanting to find out more about some of the artists, and learnt what a dorodango is.
Readers who like their novels with a solid plot and linear narrative may not enjoy this novel. The meandering format and lack of plot may be too much. Similarly, readers who have an aversion to art may be put off. But I know very little of the art world and I simply adored this book. It is beautifully written, and surprisingly, given the structure of the narrative, flows along effortlessly, and there is no trace of this being a debut novel at all.
A wonderfully rewarding and enjoyable debut novel. 4 Stars!
Maria Gainza (born December 25, 1975, Buenos Aires) is an Argentine art critic and writer.
She is granddaughter of Alberto Gainza Paz, who was director of the newspaper La Prensa.
She began publishing her first articles about art for newspapers and cultural supplements in 2003. For more than ten years she had been a regular contributor to Artforum magazine. She also wrote in the Radar supplement of the newspaper Página/12. She has taught courses for artists at the Center for Artistic Research and art criticism workshops at Torcuato di Tella University.
She was co-editor of the collection on Argentine art "Los Sentidos", by Adriana Hidalgo Editora.
Optic Nerve (Spanish: El nervio óptico), her first foray into narrative, has been translated into ten languages. In 2018 she published The Black Light (Spanish: La luz negra), which deals with the art market.
In 2017 she won the Konex Award in the Visual Arts category.
n 2019 she received Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz Prize for "La luz negra".
There is a wonderful article on Gaiza at LITERARY HUB, link here - https://lithub.com/an-afternoon-at-maria-gainzas-buenos-aires-home/