In the outskirts of Buenos Aires in 1907, a doctor becomes involved in a misguided experiment that investigates the threshold between life and death. One hundred years later, a celebrated artist goes to extremes in search of aesthetic transformation, turning himself into an art object. How far are we willing to go, Larraquy asks, in pursuit of transcendence?
The nearly indescribable approach is part of the fun of Comemadre, especially given the confidence and poise of its delivery ... Comemadre shocks on each page, and it’s also very funny. It is absurd and straight-faced and frighteningly self-assured ... Part of the horrifying joy of this novel is how safely you can rest in the hands of a maniac as the narrative world is built and burned down around you.
...the novel is not concerned with excoriating particular bad actions, and it would cheapen the text to read it as a mere dystopian warning against particular medical experimentation. The doctors’ cavalier attitude toward their patients’ potential suffering and their willingness to experiment with human bodies illustrates Larraquy’s broader conviction that our capacity for violence is more readily flexible than we like to believe ... The book is unsettling in its depiction of severed bodies, merciless characters, and ominous dreamscapes. Creating this sense of disturbance seems to be a part of Larraquy’s artistic intent. By unmooring the reader, he creates a reading experience that allows for shock in the face of violence, an increasingly difficult task for an artist. Juxtaposing two disparate stories allows the form to match the disconcerting content ... Heather Cleary does a glorious job at capturing the nuance and the comedy of Larraquy’s language ... By tempering even the darkest of moments of the story with grand metaphors, scathing interiority, and the comically absurd, Larraquy pulls the rug out from under the reader’s despair, humanizing the seemingly inhuman cruelty of its characters.
While the first half of the book is stronger in its narrative cohesion and effect, the second half excels in its experimentation as perspectives, style, and form shift quite fluidly while also creating subtle bridges to the first half ... The language, which Cleary does a remarkable job transforming into English, draws the reader into the story, making him or her complicit in the horror through his or her spectatorship. The consumption of this novel is quick, but the text will inevitably continue to haunt its reader.