Gringa Reads

Nada Me Faltará by Lourenço Mutarelli

Review, SynopsisZoe PerryComment

Let me come clean right now. Lourenço Mutarelli is my Brazilian literary Johnny Depp. I will read anything he writes, no questions asked. If he suddenly switched gears and started writing cheesy science fiction romance novels set in Biblical times, I would buy them. Luckily for us all, Lourenço has yet put me in the equivalent position of watching the Lone Ranger. 

Published by Companhia das Letras in 2010, this novella is 136 pages of pure dialogue (more on that later). I love what the publisher has done with Mutarelli's books, which feature matte, textured covers, rounded corners, illustrations by the author and repetition of a particular color on the inside pages and even in the color of the text. The title of this slim book is a biblical verse (Psalm 23:1, according to my googling), I shall not want.

Nade me faltará is the story of Paulo, a man who mysteriously disappeared with his wife and young daughter, then reappears, just as mysteriously, a year later on the front steps of his old apartment. Paulo is questioned by the police, doctors, friends and family members, but he remembers nothing about what happened. He moves in with his mother and sinks into a state of tiredness and disinterest. The situation gets increasingly complicated as those around him expect the return of the 'old Paulo' they knew before the disappearance, but no one seems to understand that, for Paulo, everything is fine. His disinterest in the whereabouts of his wife and daughter raises the suspicions of a detective and even his own mother, and his therapist is the only person to show any understanding in his attempts to crack Paulo's case. Using only dialogue, Mutarelli explores the ragged edges between sanity and madness, fantasy and reality, honesty and conspiracy.

After the first few pages I flipped ahead to see if Mutarelli was going to keep up his use of dialogue the whole book, and he does. I was worried I wouldn't be able to keep the characters straight, or if he could even develop the story with this tactic, but it works surprisingly well, and although there's not much there, you're pulled along for the ride. Most of Mutarelli's books could be described as spare, but this one takes the idea of minimalism to a new level.

I found a short interview with Mutarelli here, where he speaks directly about his motivation behind the book, which I've translated below:

I am a great admirer of minimalist music. Glass, Cage, Pärt, Bryars, Eno, Ostertag, Reich, etc… Although my first novels reflect this (O cheiro do ralo, O natimorto) I tried experimenting with something different in A arte de produzir efeito sem causa.

I decided to return to this idea in a more radical way in this book. I wasn't looking for literary minimalism, but musical. The same attempted mainly by Glass and Cage. Glass doesn't like the expression “minimalism”, and prefers to call it “music with repetitive structures”. If you pay attention to his music, you will see that the variation occurs so subtly and, yet gradually transforms the entire base and sometimes even the theme. That was my primary inspiration and my goal. To transpose this idea onto a storyline, I thought of a simple story, a small theme, a mystery. The story of a family's disappearance. The best way I found to minimally and gradually vary the plot was to retell the story through different characters. I thought the idea of minimalism should also — and primarily — be in the narrative. So I chose to narrate it in dialogues. Simple dialogues. Everyday conversations. No poetry or affections. I wanted to construct a book with as little as possible. The challenge was to make the story intelligible. Using my career in comics and graphic novels, my idea was to narrate a story using just the speech bubbles. The dialogues. With no reminders or text boxes to situate the reader in time or space.

A little about the author:

Nada me faltará is Lourenço's sixth book, and his third published exclusively by Companhia das Letras. He has also published numerous graphic novels and comic books, as well as a collection of plays, and his artwork has appeared in several magazines, films, and theatre productions. He appeared in the film adaptations of his books O Cheiro do Ralo (which you can read a sample of in the August 2013 issue of Words Without Borders) and O Natimorto, and in several plays. Mutarelli will be at the 2013 Frankfurt Book Fair as part of the Brazil delegation, and is represented by the RCW Literary Agency.