"Begins to fuck with your head from its very first word." — Toby Litt
"could be the hallucinogenic amalgamation of a César Aira plot with setting and characters conceived by Bolaño — if written using Oulipo-style constraints. . With ample imagination and commanding style, certainly marks Labbé as a young author from whom we ought to anticipate great, fascinating things to come." — Jeremy Garber, Powell's Books
At a basic level, this is a distorted detective novel mixed with a love story and a radical statement about narrative art. Beyond the silence that unites and separates Carlos and Elisa, beyond the game that estranges the albino girls, Alicia and Violeta, from pleasant summer evenings, beyond the destiny of Neutria — a city that disappears with childhood — and beyond a Chilean literary movement that could be the last vanguard, while at the same time the greatest falsification, questions arise concerning who truly writes for whom in a novel — the author or the reader.
Through an array of voices, overlapping storylines, a kaleidoscope of literary references, and a delirious, precise prose, Labbé carves out a space for himself among such great form-defying Latin American writers as Juan Carlos Onetti and Jorge Luis Borges.
It’s the summer of 1999 when the two children of wealthy video game executive Jose Francisco Vivar, Alicia and Bruno, go missing in the beach town of Matanza. Long after their disappearance, the people of Matanza and the adjacent towns of Navidad consistently report sightings of Bruno — on the beach, in bars, gambling — while reports on Alicia, however, are next to none. And every story and clue keeps circling back to a man named Boris Real. .
At least that’s how the story — or one of many stories, rather — goes. All of them are told by a journalist narrator, who recounts the mysterious case of the Vivar family from an underground laboratory where he and six other “subjects” have taken up a novel-game, writing and exchanging chapters over email, all while waiting for the fear-inducing drug hadón to take its effect, and their uncertain fates.
A literary descendent of Roberto Bolaño and Andrés Neuman, Carlos Labbé’s Navidad and Matanza is a work of metafiction that not only challenges our perceptions of facts and observations, and of identity and reality, but also of basic human trust.
“Carlos Labbé’s [Navidad & Matanza] begins to fuck with your head from its very first word — moving through journalese, financial reporting, whodunit, Joseph Conrad, Raymond Chandler, Nabokov to David Lynch.”—Toby Litt