Talking to Ourselves by Andrés Neuman – review

A short novel about how three people in one family deal with death, with a quality of writing rarely encountered

Neuman's short novel, translated by Nick Caistor and Lorenza Garcia, has a deceptively simple set-up. We hear, in turn, the voices of three members of one family: Mario, who is dying of cancer, his wife Elena and their 10-year-old son Lito. Mario takes Lito away on a road trip for a few days so that the boy will have an experience to remember him by. In their absence Elena searches for ways to assuage her grief. These include conversations with passages from a striking selection of books (listed at the end), which take her deep into ideas about illness and bereavement. She also embarks on a relationship that stuns the reader with its power and honesty. Who needs a more complex plot than this death and the ways three people meet it? This is writing of a quality rarely encountered, which actually feels as though it touches on reality, translating something experienced into words, without loss of detail or clarity. That shouldn't be rare but when you read Neuman's beautiful novel, you realise a very high bar has been set.

Contributor

Jane Housham

The GuardianTramp

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