Luis Landero (Albuquerque, Badajoz, 1948) rarely disappoints. Even in his minor books, if he had them, there is an air of verbal and narrative fascination that envelops and crumbles life and its paradoxes as if by magic. Naturally. With emotion. Ironically. Landero, above all, is an intuitive writer, one of those who go into the forest to find the branches, the most leafy trees, the exits to the river or open fields, and even to find those unexpected voices that create a choir, a symphony. , an outburst of fear, mischief or pure play.
Perhaps ‘Emerson’s garden’ (Tusquets, 2021) for some was a delicious but minor book, devilishly subtle and somewhat erratic, one of those that are written with joy, out of necessity, rather than out of the ambition to increase weight or significance of a work. In it, however, there were delicious pieces of a peculiar popular wisdom, of an estrangement that gave some sections the air of a fantastic literature that sprang from those below.
The philosophy of the people
In it there were characters, family echoes, memories of his father and grandmother, a melancholy that came from far away and from the earth, and there was a handful of creatures that went their own way. With cunning and candour, with the incorruptible delight of living. Some of these beings crystallize in Marcial, the protagonist of ‘A ridiculous story’, who is basically a thinker, someone a little detached from the world, somewhere between a nihilist and a skeptic from the start. (“Almost everyone is skeptical,” he says), who has shaped and forged himself.
If one listens to him, if one reads him carefully, one perceives that he is more eloquent than loquacious, more lucid or brilliant than empathic. He is a character who has gotten to where he has gotten by protecting himself, calculating misgivings, fears, crashes, that there are. And weaving, with his reading and with his habits, with his surprising work, a personality: he hates for self-defense and adores insects.
Marcial is a master of misguidance. A procrastinator: the charlatan who knows how to postpone action until he knows for sure how to approach the story. He has gotten used to telling himself so much that he immediately finds nuances, pretexts, and opens the album of his digressions. And as well as a keen narrator, he is also an heir to Montaigne, and an unexpected aphorist. Luis Landero tells all of this like someone who doesn’t want anything but wants it all: seduce, embolize, wrap, and offer a tapestry of little stories, beads, secrets and confessions, with different degrees of irony or parody: «Only I will say that women, when they undress, are not so bad. I know what I’m talking about.” And on the next page, when the tremor of desire or hallucination occurred: “Suffice it to say that suddenly my life, without Pepita, was meaningless.” The ellipsis as seen is almost brutal.
“Deep down, both hate stories and love stories are equally exposed to the excesses of imagination and madness,” says Marcial, the protagonist
Marcial discovers that love is much more than those romantic nonsense of poetry, and the one who provokes this in him is Pepita, also called Marisé or Mariajo, who is a perfect antagonist of what he is: refined, educated, with concerns, detail-oriented and absolutely amazing beauty. If until then he dominated certain springs of hatred, now Marcial will discover something else: “Deep down, both hate stories and love stories are equally exposed to the excesses of imagination and madness.”
Pepita, Natalia, Merche…
Before Pepita, Marcial knew and lived with Natalia, with whom he spent two hours a week, having sex, conversation, curious coexistence and manicures; with Merche, the woman who praises her mother, and with Nuria. He loves them her way, without fanfare, with mitigated voluptuousness. But with Pepita everything will be different, and the attempt to approach her is a true delusion and is, without a doubt, a new dialogue –or a threat of parody and homage– with Cervantes and the invention of Dulcinea. Martial, detached, a rather occasional reader of Kafka, very present in the book through a story of yesteryear, he will discover the tyranny of love. His ambivalence, his inaccessibility, the pain of rejection, even the loss of self-esteem.
In a fluid novel, bounded by surprises and evasions, Marcial recalls his great childhood and youth idol, Suárez. And he establishes analogies: «Suárez and Pepita have been the two great and only loving existences that I have had in life, and that is enough for me to have love among my most hated friends. Not the vulgar and daily love, which is the most fashionable, but the other, the one that is only felt once in a lifetime, the only one, the unrealizable, the inclement, the mythical, the tragic, the sublime, the that more than love is necessity, instinct, an imperative call, an order that cannot be ignored, and that only a select few get to know».
“Not the vulgar and everyday love, which is the most fashionable, but the other, the one that is only felt once in a lifetime, the only one, the unrealizable, the inclement, the mythical, the tragic, the sublime, the one that more than love is necessity, instinct, an imperative call, an order that cannot be ignored, and that only a select few get to know”, confesses Marcial
This fragment could be the perfect definition of this moving, tender, funny, philosophical novel, full of surprises, written with the illumination of style and mastery of language, which delves into the human soul and finds on the journey through that mysterious tunnel real treasures.
‘A ridiculous story’. Louis Landero. Tusquets Publishers. Wanderings Collection. Barcelona, 2022. 283 pages.