Among young writers who’ve already published a first book, Neuman may be the youngest of all, and his precocity, which comes studded with lightning bolts and proclamations, isn’t his greatest virtue. Born in Argentina in 1977, but raised in Andalucia, Andrés Neuman is the author of a book of poems, Métodos de la noche [Night Methods], published by Hiperión in 1998, and Bariloche, an excellent first novel that was a finalist for the most recent Herralde Prize.

The novel is about a trash collector in Buenos Aires who works jigsaw puzzles in his spare time. I happened to be on the prize committee and Neuman’s novel at once enthralled me – to use an early twentieth-century term – and hypnotized me. In it, good readers will find something that can be found only in great literature, the kind written by real poets, a literature that dares to venture into the dark with open eyes and that keeps its eyes open no matter what. In principle, this is the most difficult test (also the most difficult exercise and stretch) and on no few occasions Neuman pulls it off with frightening ease. Nothing in this novel sounds contrived: everything is real, everything is an illusion. The dream in which Demetrio Rota, the Buenos Aires trash collector, moves like a sleepwalker, is the dream of great literature, and its author serves it up in precise words and scenes. When I come across these young writers it makes me want to cry. I don’t know what the future holds for them. I don’t know whether a drunk driver will run them down some night or whether all of a sudden they’ll stop writing. If nothing like that happens, the literature of the twenty-first century will belong to Neuman and a few of his blood brothers.


Taken from ‘Neuman, Touched by Grace,’ published in Entre parentesis by Robert Bolaño. Copyright © 2004, The Estate of Roberto Bolaño.

Photograph © filguadalajara

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