In her introduction to the English translation of this book, Patti Smith writes that The Divorce “outlines the process for those wishing to comprehend or to experience the expansive possibilities of a single moment” (viii). That is a perfect description of this book, though it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting when I first picked it up. Our narrator is a recently-divorced man who has decided to spend some time in Buenos Aires in December: a Southern Hemisphere summer seems better than a Northern Hemisphere winter and an awkward Christmas with his daughter (who’s in kindergarten) and his ex-wife. He has some acquaintances in Buenos Aires; late in the book we learn that he “had lectured on Borges in Providence” and that the Buenos Aires neighborhood where he’s staying is “the place where Borges had spent his childhood and discovered literature” (84). “The games that Borges had played with space-time in his work were secondary to his art of storytelling; his presence hovered over the neighborhood where I had come to stay” (ibid.). This all seems significant to the narrative of The Divorce itself, which delves into a series of often-surreal connections and backstories and characters that relate, however tangentially, to a chance reunion the narrator witnesses at the outdoor tables of a café.

There are a whole lot of great sentences and images and moments in this short book. I like how the narrator says this: “In the absence of significant others, I had the liberating sensation of being absent from myself” (4). And I like how he describes the weather and the setting: “the lengthy evenings, and the leaves on the trees, whose high branches met over the streets, and the air washed clean by daily showers” (ibid.) There is a moment where moths take the shape of a building; there is a moment where a man lights a candle to see the shadows another man casts as he gesticulates to himself; there is a childhood memory to do with a village’s “roster for taking Krishna out on Sundays” from the shrine (and this is not a statue of Krishna, but somehow actually Krishna); there is a mysterious Manual that lets a fourteen-year-old-girl run a company by following its instructions; there is a moment where a woman buys a plastic Christmas tree by feel, in a store during a blackout. I especially loved the last section, with its story of a mysterious woman and a romance cut short.

Leave a Reply

Subscribe without commenting