A slim and eminently readable iteration of the genre, delivered in the disarming voice of a feckless novelist turned house husband ... The two met at a literary festival, kept in flirtatious touch, and have seen each other a couple of times. The occasion of the novel is a further reunion, for which Lucas has high hopes ...With an insouciance greater than that of Spiotta’s intense Sam, Lucas makes light of his travails, and the novel feels, even at its darkest, almost like a comic romp; but Mairal gives his character the gift of frankness, and in his uncomfortable admissions and meandering reflections, Lucas, too, comes to accept the limits of his agency and the ineluctable force of reality. Midlife once again proves to be about compromise, and the freedom that comes with resignation.
Into this brief novel, Mairal fits the humor and pain of being human, especially male, fully on display. In vivid prose that turns grotesque moments sublime, as in the description of Lucas’ flight of fancy while he pees in a filthy public restroom, this is a luminous and witty work of literary fiction.
In the hands of a writer less skilled in nuanced storytelling, The Woman from Uruguay could have been a tired tale of a man in the midst of a mid-life crisis, led astray and ultimately made a fool by his baser instincts. But in his latest novel, celebrated Argentinian writer and poet Pedro Mairal works through the familiar trope of bungling male sexual desire to reflect more philosophically on the nature of intimate relationships, and the ways in which we can so perniciously lose our individualism in the connections we form. The result is a tender meditation on desire and the fragility of the human heart, translated elegantly by Man Booker International winner Jennifer Croft.
... will feel comfortingly familiar to Anglophone readers. Narrated by a Mairal-esqeue novelist, whose thoughts tend not to stray far from his personal troubles and obsessions, this is recognizably a work of autofiction. The tone, too, is one we have heard before: clever, cosmopolitan, somewhat fey, vaguely troubled. Or perhaps that is the book Mairal set out to write, before he lost his nerve. Midway through, he turns a mood piece into a seedy thriller, bringing in sex, crime and intrigue. The result is an unfocused, lopsided story that packs far too much into 150 pages ... The contrast of intimacy and betrayal could have made for powerful drama, but Mairal does not fully commit to it ... Mairal’s award-winning translator Jennifer Croft relays the matey, cliché-ridden, and frequently crass language with little fuss ... draws on two energies that power the telenovela genre: misogyny and commerce. Pereyra is a standard-issue, literary beta male who objectifies women and ignores the female point of view but is shielded from outright monstrosity by the veneer of self-awareness. As for the money, Mairal has figured out that writers can now work up an account of their lives, no matter how banal or comfortable, into a kind of subfiction, with little concern for theme or structure, and find a ready audience. It’s good work, if you can get it. The Woman From Uruguay, originally published in 2016, was a best seller across Latin America.
Lucas' narrative is actually addressed to his wife, and in fact The Woman from Uruguay is a kind of family-novel, exploring what 'family' means. Among the most successful parts are Lucas' descriptions of fatherhood, of how all-consuming child-care, in the broadest sense, became after his son was born, not just the physical work involved but also the endless worry and concern ... His (mis)adventures in Montevideo allow for a reset, with everyone -- Catalina, Guerra, and him -- finding their place in the novel's rather easy resolution. It's not your typical happy ending, but the sense is that everyone now lives true to themselves, having found the appropriate situations for themselves ... predictable in much of its story-arc, and rather odd in its message, especially about the idea of family. Catalina's behavior (and the reason behind it) as the marriage strains also play a role in things -- and offers an additional too-easy excuse and explanation for the rather neat final resolution of their relationship ... Having an author as narrator-protagonist can be problematic -- especially when, as here, the actual author veers so much between his protagonist being self-aware and self-deluding ... satisfying enough on some level -- the hapless hero and his fall can be amusing -- but also aims for a weightiness that's just not there.
Lucas is not an entirely likable narrator. He is self-pitying, a bit sleazy in his adulterous aspirations and at best a mediocre husband and father. He resents his wife for her ability to support him financially, and his young son for disrupting his work. But readers will be drawn in by the mysterious Guerra and the pathetic and darkly comic narrative of Lucas's unlucky day ... The translation from Spanish to English by Jennifer Croft handles such moods and idiosyncrasies perfectly ... Readers may not be precisely rooting for Lucas to get what he wants, but they will certainly be eager to find out what happens next.
This is a short novel of subtle gear changes, where the seemingly obvious plot becomes a distraction to the true narrative that builds and builds and accelerates through a shifting geographical and psychological landscape ... The expected comes to pass, but the outplaying of what the reader saw coming is constantly unexpected.
This introspective outing from Mairal follows a writer’s eventful day as he travels from Argentina to Uruguay to game the exchange rate and collect advances on two books ... While Lucas’s objectifying of Magalí wears thin, the story ends beautifully and judiciously, as Lucas must decide what he wants and who he wants to be. It adds up to an intimate and mostly fresh look at middle age.