Rodolfo Arias Formoso: Guirnaldas (bajo tierra) [Garlands (Underground)]

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The latest addition to my website is Rodolfo Arias Formoso‘s Guirnaldas (bajo tierra) [Garlands (Underground)]. This is a first-rate Costa Rican novel, which was very well received in Costa Rica. It is based on the principle of a tube line, with each chapter being either a station or a connection on the tube line. (The tube line is entirely fictitious for, though the novel is set almost entirely in San José, San José does not have an underground railway system.) Each chapter tells us the story of one or more characters, though the stories develop over the course of the book. However, as well as the tube line principle, this book is based on the idea that everything (and everybody) is connected as well as the idea of the butterfly effect. Accordingly, characters that feature in one story will turn up in a minor role in another and, all too often, despite their minor role, will have an often unintended influence on the life of the other characters. We get a full range of characters and scenes – from the super hadron collider to James Bond’s pink E-type, from drug dealers to computer programmers, from lottery tickets to toy helicopters, from neo-Nazis to unwanted pregnancies. It is a very rich and cleverly constructed novel and well worth reading, if you read Spanish. Sadly, it has not been translated into another language and seems unlikely to be. However, who knows?, after their World Cup success, Costa Rica may start to get a bit more focus in the English-speaking world.

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