You’re never directly informed about what counts as revolution and who in particular is trying to achieve it. Instead, The Revolutionaries Try Again dissects a decade of Ecuadorian austerity and idealism through often jarring and always stunning literary montage ... what Cardenas does so adeptly in his debut novel is highlight conditions against which feelings of pointlessness emerge in the first place.
This is a book at once haunting and haunted, rippling with the ghosts of Latin America’s atrocities, disappointments, colonial strangleholds, insurgencies and fierce hopes, a book at once specific to Ecuador’s historical realities and bursting with significance to our whole hemisphere ... The style of this book is as ambitious as its territory, moving fluidly from voice to voice, from luminous long sentences to syntactical fragmentation. Cardenas, an Ecuadoran now living in San Francisco, has made the Nabokovian move of claiming adoptive English as his own, and he gives us many beautifully eloquent moments ... There are times when the structure of the book strains under the weight of its own ambition, where the language seems to fray. But this flaw is ultimately overshadowed by the novel’s explosive power.
[Cardenas' fiction] speaks like a wise but fevered man -- exalting in digression, pining for something lost, planting profundity amid little clouds of chaos ... Cardenas artfully renders these ironies with rhetorical and textual acrobatics of his own ... If the varied style sounds wildly disorienting, it usually isn't. The novel's use of various forms and voices brings together a multitude of stories that echo and reframe one another.
...a young Ecuadorian writer named Mauro Javier Cardenas has emerged, standing in Bolaño’s shadow. His debut novel, The Revolutionaries Try Again, captures both the starry-eyed vision of a younger generation and the 'tragic and pathetic' results of failing to come to terms with adulthood ...a novel that redefines the Latin American identity in a world characterized by social technology and ever-blurring ethnic boundaries ... novel alternates perspectives, mostly following Antonio, but also hops inside the heads of some of his former classmates ... Gradually, periods are replaced by commas and then hyphens and slashes, until we find ourselves lost (in the best sense of the word) in a splintered stream of consciousness that mimics Antonio’s restlessness and the country’s fractured politics.
The Revolutionaries Try Again doesn’t quite fulfill the drama that its opening seems to promise, but nor does it get mired in the doldrums of typical lit-fic plotlessness. The book succeeds because the mechanics of the mind, much like those of politics, tend to whirl in place rather than move forward. For a novel about stifled ambition, this form fits ... Wouldn’t that be fantastic, if this dense, brilliant, bilingual novel by an immigrant is what the future of American literature looks like?
...a high-octane, high-modernist debut novel from the gifted, fleet Mauro Javier Cardenas ... one of those books in which what happens is less important than how it happens: in streams of consciousness laced with bilingual profanity, and pages of braggadocious dialogue unsoiled by a single quotation mark.
His debut novel resists you with every page. Reading it feels like being dropped in the middle of an inside joke told by people you don’t know, who never give you the setup so you can’t understand the references. It’s uncomfortable and disorienting; it’s easy to walk away...And yet, if you allow the words to wash over you so you can experience the creativity and boldness of the author’s narrative styles, the novel occasionally has a jolting and refreshing effect—moments where the ponderous style of the book matches the theme: young, idealistic motivation slowly being killed ... Paragraphs and sentences in this novel can run for several pages. Chapters are sometimes written completely in Spanish. Nicknames are used before their associations and meanings are revealed. The rug is constantly pulled from under us; we are made to feel unsafe ... Despite the fun Cardenas is clearly having in setting up stylistic hurtles, the work comes off as cold. I found myself yearning for a little straightforward realism and character development at times. The Revolutionaries Try Again becomes tiresome in its attempts to be as iconoclastic as possible. In this sense it seems more related to the later novels of Elfriede Jelinek, which throw everything at the page in the hope that the reader can divine something, than the work of Roberto Bolaño, Javier Marías, or Julio Cortázar, to whom Cardenas has been compared.