Alternating between refugees occupying a building in São Paulo, a father's sickness and a wife's pregnancy, Occupation—originally published in Portuguese in Brazil—examines the fragility of life and the brutality of not belonging.
... a quiet masterpiece. Touching on family and relationships, birth and death, colonialism, the refugee crisis, political activism, the Holocaust, our (in)ability to identify with one another, and how to find hope in a world of ruin, this novel is sweepingly ambitious in its themes, yet the measured, self-critical voice of the narrator and the calm, understated prose prevents it from veering into sensationalism or sentimentality ... Small jumps in time, along with chapters that begin mid-conversation, can at times create a sense of dislocation, but Fuks weaves the strands together so gently and dexterously that when they coalesce, it does not feel like the technique has been a pretext for creating suspense; rather, it is as though the narrative has been constructed this way so that the narrator might himself work through and better understand the components—as if each narrative thread must be understood on its own to bring the whole into relief. Nevertheless, the technical mastery of this construction should not be downplayed, and throughout the book, the reader will notice explicit motifs along with subtle echoes and patterns in the language. All this adds to a sense that the novel’s threads are both connected and discreet, amplifying the plurality of the voices and experiences which ultimately merge with the voice of the narrator ... With its masterful inquiries into identification and occupation, this novel is bound to find a home in the wide-ranging imaginations of its readers—in yours as it has in mine.
Occupation is, you will be relieved to hear, far more precise than the 1.2 million words of Marcel’s masterpiece—indeed, none of Fuks’s 41 chapters runs to more than four pages. But even when it moves away from the plight of the migrant squatters, the novel loses none of its appeal, nor does it succumb to the tantric self-indulgence which occasionally besets autofiction. Instead, it is poignant, thought-provoking and engaging. I loved it. Sometimes, it’s even funny.
... the writer not only confuses Sebastián’s biography with his own, but the last third of the work is heavy on a metaliterary discussion that undermines much of the fictional aspect of the story ... If the novelist has come to be known for his autofiction, there is an immense drive in Occupation to look upon other human experiences. In the narrative, there exists a need to open oneself to others to be occupied by them ... Sebastián looks upon others’ misfortune, but the novel does not structure itself around some sense of condescending pity that spotlights people’s personal trauma. If anything, what is highlighted is the characters’ strength and will to survive. It could, in fact, be said that in Fuks’ prose occupation and resistance walk hand-in-hand.