Spanish/Portuguese Lit Month Review: Portrait of an Unknown Lady by Maria Gainza translated by Thomas Bunstead

My Interest

In the last few years, I’ve enjoyed participating each July in Spanish and Portuguese Literature challenges hosted by blogger Winston’s Dad, so this year I kept a look out for new books to for this challenge.  The NY Times list of new translated books caught my attention. This book was in it and, happily, was novella length, and (best of all) was about 4 1/2 hours on audio. Perfect for my current attention span!


The Story

What caught my eye about the story, beyond being set in Argentina (a country I have not “read” before) and being translated into Spanish, was that it concerned the art world–especially high-priced forgeries–those who create them and those who track them down and expose them. Instead the story is a rambling, disjointed mess of thoughts, text, and occasionally happenings.

My Thoughts

I think the world “surreal” was thrown in there somewhere in what I read about this book and I should have headed it. Like theatre of the absurd that one word says it all–surreal. Or, to my mind, ridiculous. Much of the book was a boring recital of the descriptions of pieces of art in a gallery or sale catalog. Interspersed between these entries were seemingly random about the art work such as: “The swollen mouths anticipate the rash of Botox use in the city 50 years later.”  Ok…. Then there was the need to intrude–no force into our brains the image that one piece of art was rumored to be used by its owner as a mastra—–y aid. ICK to the nth degree. This line told all I needed to know about this book–it was published because of who the author is and not because it is at all creative. It is just a mess. I finished it so you don’t have to.

My Verdict

2 stars

Portrait of an Unknown Lady: A Novel by Maria Gainza, translated by Thomas Bunstead

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