A notable achievement in contemporary Spanish artistic output, Nocilla Trilogy, by Augustin Fernández Mallo, is a beguiling, humorous, and challenging collection which explores the role of writing in the 21st century. With splintered narratives threaded through hundreds of chapters of varying length—from a few sentences to over eighty pages—Fernandez Mallo illustrates his thoughtful aesthetic strategy, fueled by an epistemological urgency, to shape contemporary approaches to literature in the information age ... the Nocilla Trilogy is at once a cerebral and accessible endeavor to develop written forms distinct to the 21st century.
Instead of employing history to legitimize literature, Fernández Mallo posits history 'like a huge supermarket' to which authors resort in order to be welcomed into the publishing world. Therefore, The Nocilla Trilogy is a vast, uncategorizable work that must be understood as a tool aimed at fracturing the mainstream Spanish publishing industry ... Indebted to the influence of foreign writers, musicians, thinkers, scientists, and engineers, The Nocilla Trilogy is fascinated with the circulation of embedded global references bombarding us non-stop across a variety of media in the 21st century ... Where time in literature has traditionally been the plane through which characters and plots travel somewhat continuously, The Nocilla Trilogy privileges space, and particularly sordid landscapes, as the main backdrop for the staging of human experience ... Science as a fiction-producing method shapes The Nocilla Trilogy, paving the way to reimagining what true interdisciplinarity looks like and how it can function as a metaphoric device that morphs fiction into new, unimagined forms.
Mallo’s sketches are wry and voyeuristic, but there’s also a tenderness to them, an affection for his strange solitary figures ... At the same time, the novel depicts a world in which individuals and objects are discrete parts of more complex systems, overlapping networks in which everything is connected ... In their beauty and their desolation, Mallo’s postindustrial landscapes evoke filmmaker Jia Zhangke’s hallucinatory visions of contemporary China, in which modernity stands toe-to-toe with the future. Offsetting these bleak geographies, however, are quietly funny moments of speculative fiction ... Mallo’s achievement is to make readers care not just about characters, but also the larger networks in which they’re entangled.
As is often the case with certain kinds of experimental literature, the books often give off the vague hint that some kind of preconceived operating principle is at play, along with the stronger hint that knowing the details of that principle would not add all that much to the reading experience ... What distinguishes Fernández Mallo from many artists...is that he is on the side of the mess ... But he doesn’t treat chaos as a grand social metaphor or a particular feature of our overmediated modern life. In keeping with his day job, he sees it instead as an enduring fact about physical reality. He wants to show us this fact—and speed is one way of doing that. The strategy comes with a price. These books read as though they were written quickly. The prose is not bad, exactly—there are none of the outright barbarisms that appear throughout Knausgaard’s work—but it is strikingly flat ... Fairly obvious errors are sprinkled throughout ... I often thought while reading these books, the internet is like this: we jump from absurdity to absurdity, never staying anywhere long enough to feel too deeply about it; we have the gnawing suspicion that the whole thing could stand a good fact-checking; meanwhile, some guy is quoting David Brooks quoting Malcolm Gladwell, and we’re not entirely sure whether he’s trying to be funny or profound ...At some level, Fernández Mallo knows all this. The irony of his monument to disorder is that it’s at its best precisely when it is most coherent—in the first volume, when the image of the Shoe Tree provides a structure for all the motley parts, and in the third volume, when Fernández Mallo recounts a unified story that is pregnant with meaning. It is in these pages that we see a strange and original sensibility at work—one that combines a deep commitment to the possibilities of art with a gonzo spirit and a complete absence of pretention—and get the chance to spend some intimate time in its company.
Even though the inherent loneliness and difficulty of Mallo’s creative endeavor—as well as that of any practicing artist—shines through clearly, the success of his trilogy in reconfiguring and recreating the world around him manages to inspire hope. Such a change or revitalization, however, is fundamentally a displacement: a reconfiguration of the existing landscape that is analogous, in Mallo’s thinking, to the nearly quixotic endeavors of Land Art ... The order of the novels leads to a myriad of interpretations ... A great deal of the Nocilla Trilogy’s charm comes from this construction, an anti-hierarchical system that attempts to open itself to as many interpretations as possible ... Mallo’s aesthetic of fragmentation, brand names, and meta-textualization of his life push him into an aesthetic at once embracing the demands and fragmentation of certain past writers, while also pointing to the information overload and difficulty of writing a novel in the present. The Nocilla Trilogy not only tells the creation story of a new novel, but of a new reader.
It is...simply a wonderful work of avant-gardist fiction ... In a book with so many characters, invented and imported from other fictions and from reality, the true protagonist is order—thus art ... Cosmic order found and produced as the positive force that prevents the entropic collapse of the universe. A more local and humble literary ordering that presents instant, not consistent, relationships. Not just order emerging from chaos, but also as a consequence of the most eccentric human needs and desires ... The world is presented here as an ‘ecology of the Anthropocene’ in which waste and randomly ordered natural and human-made objects spontaneously rearrange themselves to produce new levels of meaning. Fernández Mallo sees the world as a tinkerer taking advantage of any available stuff, and in our time waste is by far the most available material.
Defying adequate genre classification, this 'docu-fiction' is a hybrid of the real (including verbatim passages from a wide range of works) and the imaginary infused with quotidian images to create an unusual literary pastiche ... Readers of Borges, Cortázar, or Vila-Matas, all acknowledged in the text, will embrace the unconventional narration; for others it may be an original yet challenging reading experience.
The Nocilla Trilogy is a monumental and maddening piece of writing. Monumental in its scope and its sprawl, and maddening in how its form, in refusing to be pinned down, chips away at what we think we know about what a novel does, what poetry does, what books are for ... The Nocilla Trilogy is a phenomenon so complex as to perhaps not be distinguishable by looking at any of its individual parts.The trilogy is an explosion of the idea of narrative itself, or at the very least of what we understand realism to mean ... To call this trilogy realism feels out of place, because of its shocking left-turn away from received wisdom of what realism does and is; to call it anything but realism, though, is to ignore its canny fidelity to what it feels like to be in the 21st century ... Wading through Fernández Mallo’s copy-paste job in The Nocilla Trilogy can feel overwhelming and even tedious, but it is a juggernaut that doesn’t let you go, instead propelling you through its pages with a relentlessness that is as mesmerizing as it is edifying.
In his radical three-part magnum opus, leading Spanish conceptualist Mallo shrugs off narrative conventions, insisting instead on the primacy of discovered associations as a means for constructing meaning in a fragmented, opaque world ... Mallo offers a whirlwind of implied significance and narrative possibilities, leaving it to readers to find significance in the storm ... As an anti-novel, Mallo’s trilogy can hang with the best and most bewildering texts of the genre, given the strong influence of Borges and Cortázar as well as Beat-era cut-up artists.
Fernández Mallo’s trilogy makes less a coherent tale than a long literary experiment verging on private joke ... Fernández Mallo writes with considerable elegance, if sometimes onrushingly ... Sometimes puzzling, even inexplicable, but rich. Just the thing for fans of Cortázar—and Borges, too.