This winner of the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction addresses the perils of literary translation in a novel of collapsing narratives and perspectives, moving readers around the last century in Mexico City, New York, and Philadelphia.
Faces in the Crowd is a haunted book—the stories the characters tell are like the pieces of a broken mirror we might try to treat as a puzzle, something manageable that can be reassembled, but the pieces never fit. There are too many duplicates and holes, too much white space on the page. Unlike other novels that have a similar fragmentary or experimental structure, this novel never gets bogged down by unnecessary opaqueness or frivolous difficulty. There’s a hardened clarity to Luiselli’s prose, which makes reading each of her sentences a dark, quiet pleasure ... Faces in the Crowd is the greatest of all things: a novel meant to be reread. It’s not until the latter half of the book, once the complexities of the structure are fully apparent, that the mystery Luiselli has crafted gains exponential, existential force, which we can then trace to very first pages.
Luiselli’s unusual polyphony asserts itself everywhere as multiplicity ... Christina MacSweeney’s translations are so clean, so gorgeously rendered with Luiselli’s evident collaboration and approval, that my only regret was not seeing Luiselli’s own English at times. I am inclined to call her use of English both felicitous and unusual, and hearing her speak it made me wish I could read more of her own unique language. Still, no matter the language, her formal and stylistic inventiveness is palpable.
...lovely and mysterious ... Ms. Luiselli shuffles among the events in a staccato succession of short passages. These storylines are not simply alternating, but, the author implies, unfolding simultaneously in an uncanny correspondence ... The effect of the legerdemain is to present time as a kind of accordion, capable of being stretched apart and then folded back into single moments—which is what seems to occur in the book's phantasmagorical coda. If Ms. Luiselli's interest in the novelistic ambiguities of reality and temporality is not original—she is in debt to the great South American artificers Jorge Luis Borges and Julio Cortázar—the multilayered book she has devised brings freshness and excitement to such complex inquiries.