This bombardment of multiple layers of thought and emotion is exactly what it feels like to read Aphasia by Mauro Javier Cárdenas ... The novel is formally daunting when you first get going with it. I’ll admit it takes a second to realize you are in fact reading the rhizomatic architecture of thought itself. Once you get going, though, it’s a rollercoaster of a run ... The light speed at which this book careens forward can make it difficult to see where the narrator is taking us, but it’s a worthy journey and universal themes emerge ... It’s the as it’s happening narration style that makes Cárdenas’s new work so innovative and exciting to read. It takes one of the oldest adages about the novel and spins it anew: novels help us understand what it’s like to be inside someone’s head.
... one of the most striking things in this book is the way that its protagonist simultaneously exists in so many different versions of time, as in he is almost thinking of or writing about some other time than the time he currently inhabits, he is a person almost entirely devoid of the present, as he himself (Antonio Jose Jiménez) several times confesses that nothing in the present is able to touch him or is real for him, and yet the novel is so invested in its own relationship to time that it arranges itself along a series of at-first mysterious signifiers ... there is nothing saintly about Antonio except his almost religious desire to understand at the same time as he erases or tries to erase certain memories even as he tries to regain them, this desire to make some sense of what has happened to his family, what has happened to his life, all the while portrayed so elegiacally, shot through with mercurial beauty and enormous stylistic ambition in this novel, Aphasia , the life of a writer’s mind.
Cárdenas might be said to be writing in streams of consciousness (note the plural), in which threads are woven in an often-dazzling performance akin to a DJ’s mashup, in which two different songs can be heard separately as well as together ... As he revisits the events of his life, Antonio interrupts himself with asides, questions, and literary references, which are themselves beset by further intrusions. The result is a fragmented narrative marked by the liberal use of em dashes and parentheses, the latter used to capture this nesting-doll effect of thoughts embedded within thoughts embedded within thoughts ... An irony of this style is that as it seeks to portray a mind frazzled by emotional stress, it demands nothing less than the complete focus of the reader. Fail to notice a reference to a film Antonio mentions having watched recently, for example, and you will be at a loss when, a couple of pages later, Antonio summons the protagonist of that film in making a comparison to his own life.