Wednesday, 25 May 2011

El menor espectáculo del mundo by Félix J. Palma

El menor espectáculo del mundo [The smallest show in the world]
This book is only available in Spanish

This a collection of short stories, a bit like snapshots into everyday life, where the surreal, strange and fantastical seems to enter. A lot of the stories deal with problems of marriage, of disgruntled couples, and betrayals. Most are about problems of the heart, whether in married couples or not. A few give an outlook into the life of elders, and their solitude.

I liked a lot of this stories, some I even loved. The first one El País de las Muñecas [The Country of the Dolls] opens us to a world not of not exactly magic, but magical nonetheless, exploring the father-daughter relationship. It's ending surprised me for its brutality and, even if part of me thinks it's a bit out of place, I don't think I could have it any other way.

Margabarismos starts off with a brilliant description of Veronica, the neighbourhood bar, and it's toilet. It's a strange story at first, and I wasn't much impressed, but as surreal things started to happen, I became more and more invested on the story. In a way, I'll say it makes sense. As far as a story where a dead uncle communicates with his nephew through messages written on a bathroom door of a shabby bar can make sense.

Una palabra tuya [One word from you] is quite dramatic, but an excellent story. It draws on the idea that sometimes kids think their parents are superheroes and that parents will try to prove them that they can indeed be heroes. This is a story that gets better and better as you go along, each shenanigan making you more in love with the main character. The ending on this one was perfect.

Maullidos [Meows] is, in itself, a love story. Only you just discover it in the end. It could have been longer, I'm sure, maybe then it would be more memorable, but it was pretty good this way as well.

Un ascenso a los infiernos [An ascent to hell]. This is a sad story, but also one of extreme courage. We are faced with 3 elders, who like to spend their days sitting by the Ambulance's entrance of an hospital, taking bets on what ails the people who come in. Among this we learn that there is no age limitation on failing in love, that disillusion can be fatal, and that anyone can be a hero, if they so wish to.

El síndome de Karenina [Karenina's syndrome] is a great story. There is a certain mystery to it, and you can't help but have your head whirling, trying to find the solution. The answer to this mystery is not surprising, but not obvious either. But what makes this story even better is its conclusion, a way to show that not all love stories end like we think, without it being a bad thing. 

El valiente anestesista [The valiant anesthetist] shocked me profundly and I have to say I didn't like it. It was a bit confusing, but more than that I didn't like the idea of a mother telling her daughter what kind of bastard her father was, in the guise of a fairytale. I understand completely the way of this story, and I do agree that life is not a fairytale but, damn, I still want to be told it is.

Las siete vidas (o así) de Sebastián Mingorance [The seven lives (or so) of Sebastián Mingorance] adds quantum physics to fantasy, a combination that is always sure to please me. The idea of this story and, in part, its execution, was extremely good. The main character, however, I didn't quite like, none of his incarnations.

And the best way to end a book of short stories, is to end with the best one, and the most bittersweet one. At least it was in this book's case. Biblelot [Trinket] gives us a peek into the solitude of old age, and what people do, sometimes in the spur of the moment, to lighten that weight and give some joy where there seems to be none.

In general, I loved this book. But it was not so much for the stories (although there are some really good ones), but for the writing style. In The Map of Time I realized that Félix Palma has a gift with language, and this book was no different. It didn't matter what it was about, the way it was told made want to keep reading. I kept thinking, it's just words, the same words every other author uses, but Palma is like a magician and these same words are transformed into a text that you can't help but marvel at. Even if this text is describing a pretty gross bathroom.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

This Book on: LibraryThing | GoodReads | BookDepository UK | Book Depository US | Amazon UK| Amazon US


  1. Yay! It's finally working! I can login :D

    Anyway, all I wanted to say is, this is not the review I was waiting for. But yes, Palma's writing style rocks. I think he could turn a phone book, an instructions manual, or an obituary into interesting reading materials.

  2. Think about it. If it had been the review you were waiting for wouldn't not being able to comment even worse?

    Yep, Palma is a master in writing :D