In This Novel, the Stream of Consciousness Is More Like a Whirlpool

In This Novel, the Stream of Consciousness Is More Like a Whirlpool

The narrator’s boyfriend is away. That’s the sum of the plot, conventionally speaking. The narrator, 31 years old, recounts that she met Jonás a week after his mother died, and that they moved in to a Mexico City apartment together one month later. Jonás has now gone to Spain with his sister and father to visit members of his mother’s family. It’s an open-ended trip, and he keeps postponing his return. Waiting for him, the narrator compares herself to Penelope in the “Odyssey.”

The novel’s real action is the narrator’s stream of thought as she ponders subjects from the very small to the very large (including the subject of the relationship between the very small and the very large; she frequently returns to the idea of “scale,” between people and ideas and world affairs). In approximate order of size, she is preoccupied with: finding a new notebook to replace the one she’s almost filled; parsing the difference between writing in pen and in pencil (“Some pens bring out the worst defects of handwriting, and others emphasize the best. A pencil, however, shows the writing for what it is, with no filters, as if lit by natural light.”); worrying about when and whether Jonás will return; expressing concern and disgust about the epidemic of femicides in Mexico.

Credit…Ana Hop

Like Cusk’s Faye, Lozano’s narrator is a writer who at one point travels to attend a literary conference. (Originally published in 2014, not long before Cusk’s “Outline” appeared, “Loop” is Lozano’s first novel to be translated into English.) And like Cusk herself, who has said in recent years that she is “not interested in character because I don’t think character exists anymore,” the narrator is fed up with conventional storytelling: “To hell with Second World War novels, sir; to the Devil with historical fiction, madam; forget all those stories about middle-aged European men. Plots come and go, action is secondary. The voice is what matters. Listen to your voice, however it sounds.” Her thoughts are full of allusions to writers, most of them mad scientists of one kind or another, including Joyce, Borges, Clarice Lispector and Fernando Pessoa.

“Last year I had an accident I almost didn’t come back from,” she announces, repeating the fact later but never getting more specific about what happened. “Nobody knew if I was going to wake up,” she says. When she did, she says, “one of the nurses pushing my trolley was singing a Shakira song to the other. This can’t be death, I thought.”

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